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Apple Store Employees Still Have Mixed Feelings About the Company

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Last year, in the face of what they call mistreatment and disrespect from the company, Apple Store (AAPL) employees were planning to unionize. Of course, that goal failed to get off the ground, and here we are: A year later and Apple Store employees remain a font of ambivalence.

While many Apple Store employees are tried-and-true Cupertino fans, a New York Times iEconomy suggests that these loyal employees do not receive the same level of appreciation for their wages.

The iPhone and MacBook sold quite well in these economically harsh times, with Apple Stores alone selling $16 billion in merchandise worldwide last year. The people working in the Apple Stores, the company’s biggest group of employees, don’t earn a wage reflective of the company’s success. They earn about $25,000 annually.

Though Apple’s retail staff makes more than most retail workers, the disparity of their income becomes apparent when you consider that Apple employees (including those not in sales and retail) make the company an average of $473,000 per employee.

Apple recently said store employees will be receiving a raise based on individual performance, with some getting a pay increase of up to 25%. Employees are also getting bigger discounts on Apple products; $500 off Macs and $250 off iPads, plus their existing 25% discount.

Even with the newly announced wage increases, retail pay is still slightly lower than other electronics sellers like Verizon Wireless (VZ) and AT&T (T). Their stores offer commissions to the sales staff.

Apple has a fan base of eager candidates looking to work for their favorite company and an employee culture that makes every sale a quest from on high. The article suggests this is partly why Apple can pay a modest wage with no commissions to usually college educated individuals moving tons of products each year.

Working conditions have become frenzied since the release of the iPhone and iPad, putting considerable stress on sales people and the technicians at the Genius Bar.

Although, being a former Apple Store employee has its benefits. Former technicians (Genius Bar workers) frequently find their way into better paid IT positions, and career retail workers get a head start because of the Apple Stores’ reputation for a demanding work environment.

The response to the investigative article has not all been positive. CultofMac is arguing that Steve Jobs didn’t intend for performance-based incentives to be a part of the employee culture, but instead wanted every employee to help create an experience for prospective customers. The Next Web argues that the Times piece suffers from a bad premise and doesn’t compare the Apple store to its true competition, other electronics retailers. Additionally, Value Walk questions whether Apple should pay their employees with a wage representative of the company’s success.

But as it was in 2011, as long as Apple continues to do well, its retail employees will always wonder when that success is going to trickle down.

(See also: Apple Grants Employees Even More Bennies and Apple Staffers Planning a Revolt)
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.