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Ex-AppleCare Employee Describes Life Inside Apple 220

Posted by Zonk
from the not-a-bad-gig-if-you-can-get-it dept.
ahknight writes "A former AppleCare employee writes about his time in Apple. From the article: 'I remember when I first started at Apple they had a picture in the training class of some guy in flip-flops, shorts, and a tropical shirt in a decorated cube with a goofy grin, the message being: it's casual. One fellow even went as far as pushing that to the reasonable limit by showing up to work every day for several months in a bathrobe and sandals (and shorts). I don't recall a word ever being said. I think he actually just gave up because no one said anything.'"
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Ex-AppleCare Employee Describes Life Inside Apple

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 13, 2006 @05:57AM (#15324053)
    I worked for two years at an apple re-seller dealing with support and sales. I can honestly say that the casual 'easy' lifestyle never made it to there..

    I'm just about to start legal procedings against my former manager!

    All of the Apple representatives that came to check up on 'us' as well didn't seem to have inherited the casual lifestyle either .. stiff as a board.
  • by Aladrin (926209) on Saturday May 13, 2006 @06:43AM (#15324118)
    I was only part time, but it was while I was in college. I worked phone tech support for a major computer manufacturer.

    Despite being more knowledgeable and more helpful to customers, I was passed by for 'promotion' (if you call it that... the place sucked) several times. Poeple that knew a LOT less and usually just messed up my customer if I had to get a second opinion on something.

    Until 1 day, the seating arrangement changed. I ended up sitting right next to the head of our area. I said good morning every morning and suddenly I was 'backup team lead' about a month later. Another month later, another seating rearrangement, and for the next 2-3 months, I remained 'backup' and people who had never even been backup were promoted to full team lead.

    At the time, it stuck in my craw that I had to 'suck up' (even tho I was just being my normal self at the time I was promoted, I'd have had to go out of my way to be nice under the new seating) to the boss (female, if that matters) to get anywhere.

    I was only there 6 months, but I learned a LOT about politics in the workplace. Geeks tend not to do well with it, but it's worth the time to look into so you at least know why thse things are happening to you.
  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday May 13, 2006 @06:45AM (#15324121) Homepage Journal
    That said, a decade in support will wear on a person.

    Tell me about it. My dad worked most of his life in process control. Building networks in mines and factories. I am sure he had a lot of fun cruising the world with a toolbox and an ethernet analyser and being shot at in PNG.

    Now the local branch of his company has turned into a phone support operation and it is totally the wrong type of work for him. He knows his stuff technically but the job is too structured for him. A 63 year old tech shouldn't have to take X number of calls per hour or get carpeted by management.

    So he is retiring soon and I am trying to set him up with a business fixing valve amplifiers. He is old enough to have started out on valves and they have come back into fashion. If I had known he was being made to do this kind of work I would have been pursuading him to get out before his heart attack, not after.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 13, 2006 @07:58AM (#15324221)
    Speaking as a person who has the difficult choice of deciding who should, and when they should advance through the organization, I can say that promoting people is a catch 22 situation, if someone is really good at being a technician, that doesn't neccessarily mean that they are going to make a great manager. So what? do you always overlook your own employees? do you only promote unhappy employees?

    Basically promoting people who are good at their job is a real risk, because you can end up taking a very productive member of a team and making them into a very disruptive fuck-up of a manager. Is that punishment really fit for a good employee?

    Instead I try to pile more perks and wages onto good employees, get them working on things that interest them the most, and generally do what I can to keep them in the position where they are doing well.

    On the other hand, formerly good employees who have become unhappy and grumpy all day long tend to be the best people to push further up the ladder, because they are the people who have formed an opinion of what needs to change in order to progress the company further or make it a better place for people to work. The test for me is that I call those people into my office and say "what would need to change to make you happy?" followed by "can you be responsible for making that change happen?" If they can answer both questions confidently and constructively, they're probably ready to move further up the organization.

    People who start out grumpy and unhappy just needed to get a different job to begin with and will be better off if you fire them, despite the initial pain of having to find a job that doesn't make them feel like shit.
  • by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Saturday May 13, 2006 @08:20AM (#15324251) Journal
    What are you talking about? Earlier this week we went four whole days before we got that WSJ fluff piece. I thought I was going to die without my slashdot apple fix.

    Thing is, Apple is one of the more interesting companies out there, so there is naturally going to be a lot of interest, negative and positive. I'm sure that if Apple stories weren't generating a lot of page hits, there wouldn't be as many of them on slashdot.
  • by fake_name (245088) on Saturday May 13, 2006 @09:24AM (#15324345)
    > If it's mission critical, you have redundancy. If you don't
    > have redundancy, it's not mission critical - you've already
    > decided you can survive without it.


    You clearly have never worked in tech support. Sometimes a programmer is told "you're the systadmin" and they have to try and figure things out, while still doing their programming job. Sometimes they get it right; sometimes they screw up basic things like having backups.

  • Re:little Apple (Score:2, Interesting)

    by laffer1 (701823) <> on Saturday May 13, 2006 @09:49AM (#15324402) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps, but I'd argue common sense is missing. My aunt is a nurse and she has absolutely no common sense. She's got 4 bachelors degrees though. Lots of learning there. She actually bought opened asprin at a garage sale! Remember she's a nurse.

    I did tech support for 2.5 years at an isp. I can tell you that many professionals can't use computers. You can only tell someone to click start so many times while telling them where to look for the damn button before you wonder how they got to be a doctor. If they can't find a start button on a screen, how will they find parts on my body? The real problem is that people with higher education seem to get an attitude problem like they are too good to use windows. (aren't we all) Its a waste of their time to call me and ask for my help. They feel they can abuse me with rude and in some cases unrepeatable comments. I don't cosider those people to be intelligent regardless of what degree they might have earned.

    I don't think programmers should even comment on this thread. Supporting something you wrote is much different than something microsoft, apple, or someone else wrote. You know how the damn thing works inside and out. Plus people act differently if they think you know what you're talking about. If you did tech support 20 years ago, don't bother commenting. Now there are quotas and you can't spend time with people.

    I work at my university now in the IS department doing support and system administration on Macs. I miss the windows calls sometimes. You can only get the "My mac thinks its 1969" call a few times before you want to throw the computer into the trash. My boss won't buy new batteries for the damn things. Mac calls are always bad. If they break, they do it in a big way.
  • by robothobo (974660) on Saturday May 13, 2006 @10:23AM (#15324500)
    My biggest problem when I worked at Apple (tech support, then educational tech support) was that the only thing that mattered ever was sales. I was a good tech, but I'm not at all a good salesperson. I never once claimed to be a good salesperson... I'm terrible at it, don't like trying to sell things to people, and frankly just dislike salespeople in general. When I was hired on, we were told that there was only a little bit of minor sales involved, such as being able to sell someone an adapter or disc when they asked for it. If that was the case, then no problem, I can do that.

    This turned out to be a lie.

    All of the tech support agents have sales quotas. They must sell, or they may lose their jobs. The actual sales department got commission on sales. The tech support department just had their job threatened if they didn't sell $X in product per month. If you called in simply asking for help getting your month-old iBook to boot, I was expected to get you to buy something during that call... OR ELSE. For a while my supervisor made me keep a record of every call that I did not sell something on, and I had to have a good explanation as to why I didn't make a sale, or I would be written up.

    All bonuses, awards, and recognition was given out for sales numbers, and nothing else. It did not matter if you were a good tech or not, if you were good at customer service or not, it only mattered that you could sell product to people who called in just wanting support on the stuff they already bought.

    That's why I'm no longer there. (in the end, it was not my choice to leave) I like the products, I like the company, but I hate the practices of the AppleCare secion of the company so very much.
  • Re:little Apple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by v1 (525388) on Saturday May 13, 2006 @11:05AM (#15324638) Homepage Journal
    One of the things I get to do at work (computer sales shop) is answer tech questions on the phone. I actually very rarely get a hostile customer, and in those cases they usually either don't stay hostile for long or they realize I don't own a Magic Wand and go away. Most of the customers I deal with are the clueless, they call with basic computer questions that carry their own special brand of frustration. There are also the variety that are cluess AND think that your entire day has been reserved for providing phone support for them. "hi I just bought my first computer and a printer, can you show me how to make christmas cards?" Those questions really do happen. We try to draw the line at 5 minutes of phone support. Any more than that, and they have four choices: bring it in, have us come out, send out a professional instructor we reference (much cheaper than sending out a tech) or keep trying to figure it out yourself.

    All in all most of the tech support calls I take are short and productive, and quickly resolve the customer's questions. The part that takes the longest time is just figuring out exactly what new and creative thing the customer has found he can do with/to the computer. After long enough you can guess pretty quickly what the issue is. My favorite: "Every time I click my mouse a little window opens up". "Take the book off your keyboard". "What?" "Take the BOOK off your KEYBOARD." "The what? .... oh, that works! How did you know I had a book sitting on the corner key on my keyboard?" "You're not the first." Now consider that call took 20 seconds. Now guess how long the FIRST one of those calls took? (hint: I broke my 5 minute rule more than once)
  • Re:little Apple (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 13, 2006 @12:08PM (#15324935)
    I do some support (I'm not chained to a desk or anything) and "change your dialect of stupid" is a great, great phrase for the unspoken part of the job no one is talking about in all this back and forth. In some situations (paged, stopped in the hallway, etc.) you simultaneously have to figure out the problem, solve the problem, and then turn around and express it in terms that won't offend the user. Yes, (some, not all) users get OFFENDED (not CURIOUS, but offended) if even a single word or technical term manages to escape your lips and they haven't heard it before. These users confuse the concept of "layman's terms" with the concept of folding their arms and being entertained. Literally, I've seen folks just stand there with arms folded saying "I don't understand that. I don't understand that." until you literally have run out of translations, and they think it's too much trouble to tell you what bit they're missing.

    And THAT, my friends, is STOOPID, whatever their preferred specialty - be it tech, medicine, law, plumbing, etc.
  • Re:little Apple (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Red Alastor (742410) on Saturday May 13, 2006 @03:19PM (#15325906)
    The GP thought that the guy who wrote the story had a bit of contempt for his customers? I hope that attitude is not typical for Apple Support (but judging by my experience with the "Geniuses" I would say it is).
    I only called twice at AppleCare. It was for a school that paid for it but forgot about it, I found it in their papers (the best kind of customers, I guess). The first time, the lady was very helpful (but only after I provided the serial and all the infos to prove it really was from a paying customer). But anyway, she took the time to be sure everything was okay and it's one of the best support call I ever had.

    The second time I called, it was about a bug in iMovie that would screw up the sync of the movie and sound in the middle of our movie for no reason. The guy gave an answer but was acting like if he was very busy and I was bothering him. What's funny is that at the end he gave me an URL for the knowledge base on their website that was so long that just reading the answer that was there would have been faster.

    They still are near the top for support however because most companies completely suck in this area. The only two companies that I know of that are way better for support are Codeweavers and Nintendo.

    Codeweavers are extremely helpful (and they can speak to you in normal english, not corporate-speak). And Nintendo have a "got a question ?" sticker on their consoles with a 800 nunmber (there was one on my SNES and N64 at least) and they really answer questions, even from kids (I know, I called there when I was a kid).

  • by Cybrex (156654) on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:20AM (#15333784)
    I had almost the exact same situation, except that in my case the cause of the problem was that the cable modem had gotten fried by lightning. It was obvious, but the Time-Warner/Brighthouse fool on the other end insisted on going through troubleshooting anyway. I've done my time in phone support as well, so I'd taken my LAN out of the equation and double-checked before I called. I accepted the BS troubleshooting until he asked me to "bypass the cable" between the modem and my computer. I asked him what the hell that meant (English was clearly not his primary language), and he explained that he wanted me to turn the cable around.

    That pushed me over the edge, and I switched from patient and helpful to "why the fuck are you wasting my time?" mode. I got my ticket number and took my burnt up modem to the local office to be replaced. As it turned out, the one they gave me as a replacement was bad as well (I had a friend bring his cable modem over and it worked fine). Needless to say, the next call to support was much shorter and less pleasant, and on my next trip to their office I had them test the replacement unit before I left with it.

When you don't know what you are doing, do it neatly.