Don't Expect Much Sympathy for Apple's Low Paid Retail Workers

The latest installment in The New York TimesiEconomy series, which details the gadget company's "short on pay" American workforce, doesn't make us want to give up our iProducts or protest Apple headquarters.

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The latest installment in The New York TimesiEconomy series, which details the gadget company's "short on pay" American workforce, doesn't make us want to give up our iProducts or protest Apple headquarters. Here's the apparent shocker, via The Times' David Segal: 30,000 of Apple's 40,000 U.S. employees work at Apple retail stores earning an average of $11.91 hourly or around $25,000 a year. Given Apple's bottom line, those numbers are supposed to be appalling. Here's the very first quote we get: "I was earning $11.25 an hour," former Apple worker bee Jordan Golson told Segal. "Part of me was thinking, 'This is great. I’m an Apple fan, the store is doing really well.' But when you look at the amount of money the company is making and then you look at your paycheck, it’s kind of tough," he continues. Considering all other factors besides the piles of money Apple makes, however, the company treats its retail employees pretty well. It's not like the pseudo sweatshop work we've heard about in American shipping warehouses, or anything.

For part-time retail employees, Apple's people do better than average. The Times has a little comparison widget, showing how much Apple workers make compared to similar positions at other companies. At around $12 an hour, the gadget-sellers make more than workers at Best Buy and Game Stop, around the same as Lululemon workers and a little less than Tiffany's and Costco employees. Is Tiffany's really a fair comparison? Even so, it's not like Apple's grossly underpaying its people. Plus, the company offers benefits, a 401K plan, discounted products and chance to buy Apple stock. It also just offered across the board raises.

None of this makes us feel all the sad, as the following Twitter conversation inspired by Slate's Matt Yglesias shows.

The story isn't all positive for Apple, as we can see toward the bottom of this twitter thread. Apple makes a lot of money, it could pay its employees more, even with last week's announced pay increases. The job has no upward mobility; workers often have to juggle multiple customers. But, that's not all that unique to Apple -- any retail employee could have the same complaints.

Most of Apple's low paid employees don't sound upset about the situation. Here are some of the complaints Segal get on record, none of which sound all that unusual

  • "I’m happy with my time at Apple and where it landed me," Asher Perlman told Segal. "I wouldn’t recommend it for my 35-year-old friend with a kid, but it works for someone who is 22 years old and doesn’t want to enter the business world yet."
  •  "The disillusionment settles in not because of pay," Graham Marley, aformer part-time sales person told Segal. "Though pay is part of it. What happens is you realize that they want you to spend years there, but there is no actual career path."
  • Mr. Timmer said he and other technicians in the store clicked the box even when they didn’t take any breaks. It wasn’t because management insisted they stick around. It was that any down time would slam already overburdened colleagues with even more work. "We were all in the trenches together," he said. "Nobody wanted to leave."

This kind of sucks, yes. But don't we all try to work extra hard for our employers? Most retail jobs don't provide the standard career ladder.

Even if these numbers did make anyone a little upset, considering the protest and embargo that didn't happen after the Times' actually upsetting Foxconn coverage, we doubt the masses will rally to Apple Store employees' defense. If the cult of Apple is strong enough to withstand bad press about dystopian Chinese labor factories, we doubt the treatment of its retail employees will change American consumer behavior.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.