Do Apple Retail Employees Really Need Their Own Union?

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Apple still has great margins (a rarity for consumer electronics) because it sells premium products and controls all of its own inventory channels—no middlemen. But Apple knows that a) people actually want to work there b) commission means paying out big bonuses and c) commissioned salespeople aren’t usually regarded in a positive light—a bunch of sneaky, slithery Apple salespeople doesn’t fit well with the company’s image.

You don’t hear many people who get paid based on how well they produce threatening to form unions, but the days of commissioned-based pay for selling consumer electronics are long gone. I can appreciate an Apple retail employee reading about how much money Apple’s raking in nowadays and wondering why he or she is only making $12 an hour, though.

So If this group is thinking of forming a union of Apple retail workers, I guess I applaud them, though I don’t think it’s going to work. I’m interested to see how it all plays out, of course. If they somehow manage to form a union and Apple doesn’t blow its lid about it, it’ll be something for the history books.

However, I’m guessing that those employees will simply be asked not to return to work. And even if every talented and dedicated Apple Store employee quit or got fired because of this, Apple could theoretically staff its stores with the same kids who work the floor at Best Buy and who worked the floors of Circuit City and CompUSA before the poo-poo hit the respective blades of those corporations’ mismanaged fans.

The big issue is that technology has been commoditized to the point where it sells itself, so most of it can be sold on razor-thin margins. And Apple products, even with their fat margins, sell themselves before you even step foot into a store. Is it a bonus that Apple Store employees are generally bright and helpful and know the products inside and out? Absolutely.

But do people need to be explained what an iPad is or what a MacBook does? Not really. Some of them need a little extra encouragement to buy one and some need to be shown how to use it after the sale, but the actual art of the sale as it pertains to selling consumer electronics is far less complicated than it used to be. Regular people just don’t ask about specs and features all that much any more and, again, most of the actual sale has been competed before you even leave the house.

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