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The Meat Grinder — Keenan

🌈 Abstract

The article recounts the author's experiences working at Apple Retail over a decade ago, highlighting instances that challenged their perception of the company's values and ideals. It explores the tension between Apple's public-facing rhetoric of "enriching lives" and the realities of its business practices, such as the "meat grinder" incident involving a manager's attempt to ward off "bad spirits" and the author's witnessing of questionable iPhone sales practices. The article reflects on the author's mixed feelings towards Apple, acknowledging the positive impact the company had on their personal growth while also grappling with the company's capitalistic tendencies and the compromises they felt compelled to make as an employee.

🙋 Q&A

[01] The Meat Grinder

1. What was the "meat grinder" incident that the author witnessed at the Apple store?

  • One of the managers at the author's Apple store brought in a "shaman" to perform a ritual involving an animal carcass, in an attempt to ward off "bad spirits" and improve the store's revenue. This incident upset some employees, leading to an internal investigation by Apple's corporate team.

2. How did the author initially react to this incident?

  • The author was shocked and confused when a colleague told them about the "shaman" ritual, responding with "Sorry, what the fuck?"

3. What was the outcome of the "meat grinder" incident?

  • The manager who brought in the "shaman" was eventually offered a role in a different state, away from the author's store.

[02] Apple's Credo and Retail Philosophy

1. What were the key tenets of Apple's Credo that the author embraced during their time at the company?

  • The Credo emphasized that Apple's "most important resource, [their] soul, is [their] people," and that each employee was a "steward of the brand" responsible for providing "enriching experiences" to customers.
  • The author was instructed to make decisions that they felt were best for the customer, even if it meant loosening the return policy or spending extra time with a customer.

2. How did the author's experience of Apple's values connecting with reality initially shape their perception of the company?

  • The author was swept up in the "fervor" of Apple's idealistic rhetoric and believed that the company was genuinely committed to making the world a better place, which helped convince them that Apple's more capitalistic inclinations were "somehow... Noble."

3. What were some of the "cracks in the façade" that the author began to notice over time?

  • The author found it strange how Apple emphasized both "enriching experiences" and "Sell more AppleCare," suggesting a philosophical misalignment.
  • Decisions made by management, such as hiring John Browett, who implemented cost-cutting measures that negatively impacted employee morale and customer service, made the author question whether Apple was truly different from other companies.

[03] The "Frank" Incident

1. What was the "Frank" incident that the author witnessed at the Apple store?

  • A man named Frank would frequently bring in people, often appearing confused, and have them sign up for new carrier contracts and purchase iPhones, which the author suspected Frank was then reselling.
  • The author and their colleagues complained to management about this, but were told that as long as the phones were sold, it didn't matter how they ended up in customers' hands.

2. How did the author and their colleagues feel about being asked to turn a blind eye to this questionable practice?

  • The author and their colleagues felt "dismayed" and "betrayed," as they believed this went against the company's values of "enriching lives" and being "stewards of the brand."
  • They felt that the high-minded rhetoric was being used to inspire complacency, and that as long as the iPhones were sold, the company was willing to overlook the potential harm being done to customers.

3. What was the author's ultimate takeaway from the "Frank" incident?

  • The author realized that even if they believed Apple was a force for good, the company would ultimately prioritize selling more products over their own values or the wellbeing of their employees.
  • The author concluded that there are "no exceptions" to the rule that companies will choose profits over altruism, and that the signs of Apple's capitalistic tendencies were "always there."
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