Apple Retail Employees Aggressively Pushing iPhone Upgrades


I explained that my device was randomly shutting down and wouldn’t come back on for several hours. As soon as I finished the explanation, the greeter said, “Have you considered upgrading to a new iPhone recently?”

The Apple Store is a store. It’s a place to buy something, and a place for Apple to sell something. However, the Apple Store has never been defined by the hard sell. In fact, it boldly fought against it. Apple retail employees have never earned commission because the goal was to give shoppers the right advice, and match person to product based on need and wants, not which one gives the biggest kickback.

These new initiatives to juice iPhone XS and iPhone XR fly in the face of the principled stance Apple has established in the past. Staff advice is distorted by upper management marketing pressure, rather than monetary incentives, but the result is the same for the customer. The advice is currently biased towards hitting Apple’s targets, not what the person walking in the shop really wants.

Miller’s anecdote is a great example of how this damages the retail experience and, by extension, the whole of the Apple brand. He is walking to get his iPhone XS Max fixed. He’s literally Apple’s best iPhone customer coming in for a support query on his new phone. Yet, the representative is immediately initiating a sales pitch. It honestly sounds like to me the employee did not even look to see what phone he had before starting to read robotically from the sales patter. Even if the person did mistake it for an iPhone X, that’s still a new model (with an associated $1000 outlay only one year ago). Nobody giving genuine advice would be recommending an upgrade in this scenario.

If you are a customer browsing the devices on the product tables, you expect the Apple employees on duty to expound the benefits of the best iPhones. A couple of mentions during Today at Apple sessions is also borderline acceptable; it’s a free session otherwise. That stuff is just about okay. It’s the fact Apple is instructing retail staff to also prey on people coming in to get help at the Genius Bar that is unequivocally distasteful, and not something that you expect from a premium brand. It’s offensive behaviour. These are tactics that try to inflate iPhone sales in the short term that risk damaging Apple’s long-term reputation and image. Tim Cook loves to advocate to investors that the company management look beyond the 90-day clicks, but this is certainly not that.