Apple Can Do Better

Johnny Appleseed
10 min readDec 21, 2021

As good as Apple treats its employees, there are still many faults that severely affect retail and AppleCare employees worldwide. If you read The Verge article, I’m sure you’re already aware (if you haven’t, pause and take a gander, but TW for suicide and mental health issues). If this is happening at Apple, where they treat us comparatively well in the space of retail and support, I can only imagine how awful things are at other companies. That’s why I felt like it’s critical to speak up and publicly encourage Tim Cook, Deirdre O’Brien, and other retail and support industry CEOs and leaders in charge, to take measures to help ensure the safety, health, and success of their most front-line employees.

When I say front-line employees, I mean the ones talking to customers every day. The ones who have to put a smile on their face no matter what is going on in their personal lives and ensure their behavior and attitudes reflect well on the company that is plastered on their chest, or on their paychecks. Having worked retail and customer-facing jobs my entire life, this job is so much harder than what we’re being rewarded for. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the retail and support employees are just as stressed if not more stressed than our corporate counterparts sitting in offices messaging each other on Slack. It’s not only physically exhausting, but the toll it takes on our mental health forces us to seek refuge in other places, whether that be a better job or a personal/medical leave.

But let’s talk about those options real quick. First, the better job. Any scrutinizers of the employees speaking out about how “bad” it is at Apple will surely just tell me, “then go work somewhere better.” My counterpoint: Why can’t Apple be better? Yeah, there are hundreds of jobs that will pay us higher, give us more vacation or sick time, and treat us the way we deserve to be treated. But what about the folks that love their jobs at Apple retail and AppleCare? Trust, they exist. You’re saying they should just make do with what Apple provides because it’s better than other places? Stop complaining because we have it so great? No, thank you. The people that love Apple, want to work here, and love helping customers should be treated in a way that matches the way our managers, their managers, and their corporate managers are treated. We shouldn’t have to leave to be able to find something better if we love the company we work for.

Next, the personal/medical leave. This is an option frequently flaunted by our managers and our HR representatives as a “viable” one for those who are starting to feel burnt out. The fact they exist is great, but you better be ready to not make any money while you’re on leave. If you do successfully get a paid medical leave, it’ll only be a fraction of your annual salary that will eventually not be enough to pay your bills again before you’re back at the same job, the same routine, and the same stress that caused you to leave in the first place. It’s a vicious cycle, one that I’ve seen countless times. The stress at AppleCare is the type I would not wish on my greatest enemies. It’s constant phone calls that automatically pick up for you, so you have no time to mentally prepare. Micromanaging managers ask why we aren’t taking calls if we’re taking too long writing our notes or going to the bathroom. And the chat side? It’s not much better, with talking to 3 customers at a time during peak periods. All the while, at both AppleCare and retail, our performance is reviewed by our customers, and their perception of how good we are at our jobs affects our raises, which are minuscule compared to the money this company makes and the raises or bonuses our managers get.

And let’s talk about raises for a second. Like many places, Apple operates on an annual raise structure that requires you to write a self-review to help leaders recognize your work. You’re asked to rate yourself on a scale of 1–3 in three categories, one being you did not meet expectations and three being you exceeded those expectations. You only get a good raise if your managers believe you exceeded their expectations, and that bar is so ridiculously high that if you are exceeding those expectations it’s practically performing the duties of the role above yours. If you didn’t spend every day doing your absolute best, if you didn’t outshine every other employee in the store in some extravagant show of “I’m better than everyone,” then you’re left with a pittance raise that rarely matches the inflation of the economy around you.

What’s worse, your longevity at the company is actually punished if you stay in the same role too long, in the form of caps. Meaning that Apple has capped certain positions at a certain pay scale and you cannot get any more raises if you’ve met that cap. If you’re a Genius, for example, and you love what you do and have been the company for over a decade, you will get a lower percentage raise than you deserve because you’re “approaching your cap.” Your longevity at a company should be rewarded, not punished. Not all of us have massive aspirations to become managers, store leaders or developers. Some of us love helping the customers who need us at the Genius Bar, because we know we’re making a difference in their lives.

Apple tells us that all the time, by the way. That the people at AppleCare and retail are the reason people keep coming back, and that we’re critical to the company’s success. But it’s all words. When more and more people started complaining about how the working conditions are unfair and we’re not being treated as well as we should be, Deirdre O’Brien came out with a video with no other purpose other than to “say thank you.” They know we’re collapsing on ourselves. They know that we cannot sustain this much longer, and they’re desperate to let us know they value us. That’s why they gave every retail employee a thousand-dollar bonus this year, and why Tim Cook just announced another one. But honestly? To a 2 trillion dollar company these are nothing, and gosh we better not expect them every year!

But our managers? They get quarterly bonuses. Our VPs? They, too, get quarterly bonuses. Tim Cook himself got a 750 Million bonus (yes, I recognize that it’s because of his tenure and position as CEO, but what human ever needs a 750 million bonus?) and he said he plans on giving away most of his income to charity. Um, sir? What about us? Why can’t Apple’s success be more fairly given out to all employees and not just dolled out to top executives? We’re a nearly 2 trillion-dollar company that has frontline employees going on unpaid medical leaves because the stress is so high, and single employees living in expensive cities can’t easily afford rent without having to live with multiple people in small spaces. Retail employees never, ever see the financial success that this company achieves because the company keeps all that money on top, despite constantly telling us they rely on us to achieve that success.

This isn’t the first time I’ve spoken up about this stuff, either. I’ve written so many times to my leaders and even Tim Cook. All I got out of any of it was a meeting with someone saying they’re “listening,” and to watch out because some other folks might want to chat with me because they’re going to “bubble up” my concerns. Did anyone else reach out? Absolutely not. But here’s the thing, I know that my managers and their managers are trying their best. I realize that they actually do care about us, and they’re stuck in the awful position of having to deal with burnt-out, stressed, dissatisfied employees while also trying to help the company stay afloat, keep up its image, and not be crushed by the stress of it themselves. I do not blame my managers for any of the things they cannot make direct changes about, but I do blame the system that made it this bad in the first place.

That’s why I’ve compiled the list below of ways this company, and other retail companies can help make the lives of frontline employees so much better. I believe these requests are reasonable and actionable, and they could help the lives of thousands of employees across this country that are being crushed by the weight of capitalism crumbling around them while it continues to support and elevate their superiors.

  • Predictable working hours.
    Having a predictable and reliable working schedule does wonders for your mental health. It’s one of the primary reasons people leave retail for office jobs, but why can’t retail employees have a schedule they can rely on, too? At AppleCare, you bid on the shifts you prefer and what you get remains yours for 6 months. While this isn’t perfect because it’s based on your performance and those metrics can be wildly unfair to a point, it is much better than retail’s constant change.
  • Better leave options.
    The leave options are awful at the world’s richest company. It takes two months of work to get one day of sick time, and you have to work for the company for 5 years before you can earn up to 3 weeks of vacation time. Part timers? They don’t earn any vacation at all! With this awful system, if you’re out of sick hours you have to dip into the vacation hours you were planning to use to actually take some time to renew. If you have to go on leave, it’s unpaid. If you manage to get a paid leave, it’s only a fraction of your salary. I don’t know what the exact fix for the leave options will be, but Apple can afford to let its retail and AppleCare employees to take more time off to be able to de-stress from the insanely high-stress environments we’re in.
  • Yearly and/or quarterly bonuses.
    If the company can afford to give annual and/or quarterly bonuses to its high-ranking executives and market leaders, it can surely afford to give the front-line employees who helped the company earn that money bonuses. Every year we wait for our annual raise only to be given a dollar or so, while our managers are rewarded for the store’s success with bonuses in the form of cash or stocks. That very same success is reliant on our hard work, our high stress, and our coming in every day to ensure that customers keep coming back. Don’t just tell us how important we are with internal videos and emails, show us by giving us what we truly deserve.
  • Remove pay caps and revise the annual raise system.
    Longevity at a company should never be punished. If an employee loves doing what they do, reward them for doing it longer. Don’t cap your most tenured retail or AppleCare employees, and change the annual raise system so that it more accurately reflects how well we perform our job and not how we’re perceived to be performing. Both by our managers, and our customers.
  • Repair the pay discrepancies for employees doing the same work.
    When you get hired at Apple your starting pay differs based on a few factors like experience, knowledge, etc. It makes sense, to a certain degree. Over time, though, no matter what your previous knowledge or experience was you and your colleagues become equals. However, because someone may have started at a higher rate they will continue to get higher raises because they were already being paid more than their colleagues. At a certain point, people doing the same work with the same results have massive differences in their pay. If someone starts off with a lower rate than their co-workers but prove to be just as knowledgeable in their duties as them, their first or second raise should be enough to bring them up to what their co-workers are making so everyone eventually ends up on the same playing field. The same job should pay the same rate, for everyone.
  • Ability to request the removal of certain customer survey responses, and change the weight of negative responses.
    For any service industry company, customer surveys are a great way to know how your store and employees are doing. But negative responses have an unfair weight that can knock a 100% satisfaction rate down to 0%. This is insanely unfair, and the weight of a negative response needs to be lessened. Oftentimes, those negative reviews have nothing to do with the service we provided and are solely reflecting the policies of the company. Front-line employees should not be punished for customers’ dissatisfaction with company policy, because we can’t change that. Of course, how we handle ourselves and respond to the customer can change how they react to customer policy, but if a customer flat-out says “X was great but I hate the fact that I can’t [complaint here],” that should not affect the employee’s personal survey score.

These are just a few things that Apple can take action on, and by doing so help better the lives of thousands of employees around the world. I don’t think they’re unreasonable requests, and I think they can set an example for other retail and support companies around the world on how to better treat their employees. We work for the same company, and we should be seeing the same success and benefits that our managers and corporate counterparts are seeing. I will end on our Apple Credo, and I would like you to ask yourself if Apple is standing up to its own credo when it comes to how it’s treating its AppleCare and retail employees.

We are here to enrich lives.
To help dreamers become doers,
to help passion expand human potential
to do the best work of our lives.

At our best

We give more than we take.
From the planet,
to the person beside us.
We become a place to belong
where everyone is welcome.


We draw strength from our differences.
From background and perspective
to collaboration and debate.
We are open.

We redefine expectations.
First for ourselves,
then for the world.
Because we’re a little crazy.
Because “good enough” isn’t.
Because what we do
says who we are.
We find courage.

To try and to fail,
to learn and to grow,
to figure out what’s next,
to imagine the unimaginable,
to do it all over again tomorrow.

At our core
We believe our soul is our people.
People who recognize themselves
in each other.
People who shine a spotlight
only to stand outside it.

People who work to leave this world
better than they found it.

People who live to enrich lives.