5 signs that Apple is a cult
According to a New York Times exposé, the company's retail stores are staffed with true believers, many of whom tolerate paltry paychecks to answer a higher calling
The average salesperson at an Apple store racks up nearly $500,000 in revenue per year for the gadget purveyor, says David Segal at The New York Times. But that same salesperson's yearly salary comes to just $25,000 or so — better than Gap, but far below the six figures that commission-earning employees at Verizon can rake in. Delving deep into the culture of the Apple store, Segal says Apple's 30,000 retail employees are often worn out by the hectic pace of sales life and frustrated by a dearth of opportunities to climb the corporate ladder. Yet Apple's retail success continues, largely because it has a "built-in fan base that ensures a steady supply of eager applicants and an employee culture that tries to turn every job into an exalted mission," says Segal. The result is a workforce that in many respects eerily resembles a cult. Here, five signs that Apple is a religion unto itself:
1. Applicants are readymade acolytes Apple stores are inundated with job applications, mostly from "true believers" who "skew young," says Segal. They are huge fans of the iPhone, iPad, and other Apple products that have changed the computer industry, and eager to fuel the "greater good" that the company is supposedly achieving in the world. "You've always been an evangelist for Apple and now you can get paid for it," Graham Marley, a former Apple salesman, tells Segal. Upon learning that they've been hired, many newly minted employees burst into tears.
2. New employees are indoctrinated The training for new Apple employees is more like an "indoctrination process," says Philip Elmer-DeWitt at CNN. New recruits are greeted with standing ovations, and told over and again that their mission is to "enrich" people's lives, says Segal. "The idea is to instill in employees the notion that they are doing something far grander than just selling or fixing products…[Apple] understands that a lot of people will forgo money if they have a sense of higher purpose." Shane Garcia, a former Apple store manager, tells Segal that he thought of Apple as a place that "wanted you to be the best you could be in life, not just in sales."
3. Employees aren't allowed to speak to the media Apple has implemented a virtual cone of silence over its retail operations, barring employees from speaking to the press. However, the company made an exception for Cory Moll, a "vocal labor activist" who tells Segal that he recently got a raise from the Apple store in San Francisco. "Apple wants to show that it cares about its workers," Moll says, "and show that it knows how much value you add to the company, by offering a bigger raise than in previous years." The suspiciously timely raise has observers asking "whether Apple was just trying to pad itself before [Segal's] story dropped," says Salvador Rodriguez at the Los Angeles Times.
4. Apple is immersed in weird lingo The help-desk technicians at Apple stores are known as "geniuses," and Segal reveals that Apple also has a Scientology-like title for its sales staffers, who are known as "specialists." Employees are required to take a satisfaction survey known, in more cultish jargon, as "NetPromoter for Our People." Employees rate, on a scale from 1 to 10, how likely they are to recommend a job at Apple to friends and family members. Those who reply with a 9 are marked down as "promoters" — those who put down 7 or below are considered "detractors."
5. Rapture gives way to disillusionment The low wages, the lack of career advancement, and the frenetic workday tend to cool the average employee's fervor, says Segal. There are reportedly far more "detractors" than "promoters," and many seem eager to leave the job after a couple of years. However, it's unlikely that Apple will soon find itself understaffed. "People will always want to work for Apple," says Garcia.