Apple apologizes for retail store staffing screw-ups

Apple has apologized for recent Apple Store staffing screw-ups that saw one of the most laudable retail operations in the world cut and confuse staff and threaten a reputation that, until now, has been second-to-none. Stories about the cuts and confusion in Apple Retail began to spread last week, and while Apple is denying reports about layoffs, they are admitting to the incredibly poor judgement when it comes to Apple Retail staffing general:

In a communication with store leadership teams, senior vice president of retail, John Browett, who took the reins of Apple's retail stores in April, said that the company had been trying a new staffing formula for its retail stores, leading some employees to see their hourly shifts cut and retail locations to be understaffed. This happened for a few weeks before the company decided to revert to its older system, hoping to rectify the problem.

He instructed leadership teams to tell employees, "We messed up," according to two people who were aware of the communication, which also stressed that while shift schedules were affected, no one was laid off. He also wanted employees to know that it was hiring new staff, these people said.

Apple acknowledged the retail staffing changes. "Making these changes was a mistake and the changes are being reversed," said Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman. "Our employees are our most important asset and the ones who provide the world-class service our customers deserve."

Browett replaced longtime Apple Store mastermind, former SVP Ron Johnson who left to run JC Penny. At the time, Browett's hiring raised eyebrows. If he did engineer this tragically misguided direction for Apple retail, he deserves the blame he's getting. But so do those at Apple who hired and empowered him. Change for change's sake is not good business, and change for any reason other than to make better things has seldom if ever been Apple's business.

Rather than get into a rant of my own, however, I'll give the floor to Jim Dalrymple of The Loop:

With $100 billion or so in the bank, the last thing Browett needs to worry about is cost cutting measures to save a few pennies here and there. Instead he should be focused on how to best server the surge of consumers that will take to the stores in the coming months to buy new Apple products.

Go read the rest of Jim's post, and Info Apple Store's report on the entire cluster that led to it. Especially if you're on Apple's executive team.

You're at the top of your game right now, this type of stuff becomes no one.

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Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Apple apologizes for retail store staffing screw-ups

9 Comments

Good to hear. I was really confused when I read the original story becuase I've never noticed the Apple store to be OVERstaffed. The two I normally use (depending if I'm coming from home or work) are in malls, and not far from each Apple store is a Dell kiosk. I've never seen more than one or two people at the Dell kiosk, but (as we all know) the Apple store is always packed as if they were running a huge sale. Although there is a sea of blue shirts, I normally still have a wait a little before someone is free to help me. I agree 100% with the Jim Dalrymple quote. If Apple ever decides to save a little money by cutting Apple store staff, I may as well save myself a gallon or two of gasoline and just go to Best Buy instead.

This is exactly the sort of thing us UK readers were expecting. This guy masterminded the world class incompetence at Dixons.

Maybe browett and Ron Johnson can switch jobs, I'll bet he'll be more at home in JCPenny. Apple what have you done?

I can say from my recent visit to the Apple store that this guy has screwed things up pretty well. I went in for what should be a simple purchase, yet it took me 30 minutes after I was checked in to get any help. I was there to spend a decent chunk of change on a new iPad 3 (64GB LTE).

I didn't require someone to extol the virtues of the iPad or which model I needed or color options I just needed to give them my card and walk out the door. The staff is friendly and great to deal with but the ridiculous wait times are just NOT worth it.

I could have walked over to a Verizon store and picked it up, or have gone to Best Buy but I chose to visit Apple because I needed AppleCare+ and you must visit the store to get it.

The store in my market it going to grown considerably (soon) and I don't think it will get any better.

I wish I had a store near me......closest ones are in Birmingham,AL and Jacksonville,FL around 280-290 miles. yikes....

Ditto. I have to go to Best Buy for Apple stuff or to talk to the Apple representative.

As to the post content, all I saw were simple, vague references to mistakes, but nothing specific enough to see it as anything other than a snafu. If I missed the details or the telltale color of hyperlink text (to a previously missed iMore article), my mistake. Otherwise, the weight of the error might be worth sharing in the article - not just a link to someone else's site, telling us what was done wrong.

I say this because the article suggests that this is a biggie but I see nothing but "confusion," which ain't good, but could be worse.

That we got this much from Apple says alot about how bad this decision was. This wasn't a oh we made a mistake. This was a "OMG WTH were you thinking!" Screwup of monumental order. I've worked in places that had staffing issues (CompUsa). Theses things ONLY happen if there is a need to hold costs down. This WAS a Guy who only knew TO CUT. It's basically the Keep them waiting mentality. In that in slow times you don't need the people just hanging around. That's not how Apple works. They are always busy and NO ONE is just standing around except for the greeter who is still pretty busy. You have to wonder did he ever step inside an Apple store before he decided to make the cuts?

Tim Cooks not stupid, maybe a lil to compassionate. If this had happened with Jobs there. Lets just say there would have been a few new openings in upper management before the morning was out. That is what should happen. Will it we will see.

This is non-sense. John actively went against those that advised him against making these retail store changes and now the company is forced to apologize for the mess-up. If I remember correctly Apple hasn't had to publicly apologize when it was under Steve Jobs. The mess-up with EPEAT and now this are foreshadowing an ever bigger problem in the future, and I'm thinking that simply apologizing won't be enough to solve it. The board or whoever are in charge need to remember that consumers who "think different" were the ones who got them to the top, and not saving money and increasing profit margins.