New York Times slams Apple Retail. Kinda.

Apple enjoys tremendous marketing benefits from the attention they attract as one of the most popular brands, and successful companies in the world. So it's only fair they also enjoy the equal and opposite results of that attention -- a burning spotlight on their every flaw, real and imagined. Once again, The New York Times turns that burning spotlight on Apple, this time examining Apple Retail.

Unfortunately, like the rest of their iEconomy series on Apple, the packaging continuously undermines the importance of its subject matter. Let's look at the headline:

Apple's Retail Army, Long on Loyalty but Short on Pay

Short on pay compared to what and whom? Compared to other retail employees in the U.S.? Well, no, at least not according to the very came article.

By the standards of retailing, Apple offers above average pay — well above the minimum wage of $7.25 and better than the Gap, though slightly less than Lululemon, the yoga and athletic apparel chain, where sales staff earn about $12 an hour. The company also offers very good benefits for a retailer, including health care, 401(k) contributions and the chance to buy company stock, as well as Apple products, at a discount.

So who then? Turns out, compared to Apple's gross earnings and the salary of Apple executives, including CEO Tim Cook.


They also cover the recent wage increases Apple has been rolling out to their staff as well.

But Cory Moll, a salesman in the San Francisco flagship store and a vocal labor activist, said that on Tuesday he was given a raise of $2.82 an hour, to $17.31, an increase of 19.5 percent and a big jump compared with the 49-cent raise he was given last year.

The criticism here, however, is that Apple doesn't offer commissions the way AT&T and Verizon do. Given the high price and margin of Apple's products, it's arguable they should be providing the same opportunity to the people that help them make those sales. An opportunity which, they say, can net the best of the best of the best of the salespeople 6 figure salaries.

At Apple, the decision not to offer commissions was made, Ms. Bruno said, before a store had opened. The idea was that such incentives would work against the company's primary goals — finding customers the right products, rather than the most expensive ones, and establishing long-term rapport with the brand. Commissions, it was also thought, would foster employee competition, which would undermine camaraderie.

The articles then turns, predictably and disappointingly, to cover the cult-like nature of Apple, their enthusiast base, and their potential employee pool, and the methods they use to train (indoctrinate) their staff.

This is where whatever editorial agenda the Times is pushing with Apple once again does them a disservice.

No doubt there is an incredibly important discussion to be had about compensation and career opportunities in a retail organization like Apple's. But the Times keeps dropping that thread just to be sensational. If Apple isn't at fault, it's nasty business. If they are, it gives them an easy out. Either way, it's bad for Apple, bad for the Times and bad for readers.

Instead of a debate about what fair wages are in a market economy, about the highest price the market will bear for goods and the lowest cost workers will accept for wages, of the relative distribution of wealth between executives and customer service staff, about Apple's responsibility as the most prominent company of the modern era and the Times responsibility as one of the most prominent reporting organizations in the world, we get something less than the sum of its parts.

So let's turn this over to you: Should Apple's profits be better shared with its retail staff? Should the profits of all major companies be better shared with the workers who sit at the front lines of the profit-making engines? Or is the goal of any good executive to maximize revenue and minimize costs? Should employees in this economy be thankful for the better-than-average Apple retail jobs they have, or should we be demanding that Apple offer the best jobs in the country, period?

Let's have that discussion.

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