Want to see the iPad? So do Apple store employees

As Apple gears up for the crush of customers expected for Saturday's iPad launch, employees who staff its retail stores are just as curious about the tablet as the fans who will line up outside.

Apple store workers say they have yet to see or touch the iPad, even though the launch is just days away and they are being trained and encouraged to talk about Apple's newest device with customers.



"We haven't seen it; we never do" before a product is launched, said one employee, who asked not to be identified because workers are barred from speaking with the media. "Every store employee I know, including the managers, they haven't seen it."



With its notoriously secretive corporate culture, Apple is loathe to circulate any iPads among retail troops ahead of the debut. Even in-store Apple repair techs - known as "geniuses" - don't yet know how to fix the gadget.



Since the iPhone launch in June 2007, Apple product releases have played out like concert tours, with fans sleeping in lines overnight and blanket media coverage that generates plenty of free advertising.



But amidst all the hype, the company's ethos of secrecy extends from its corporate perch in Cupertino, California, to its component suppliers and its network of more than 200 US stores.



"We did not see or hold an iPhone until an hour before it went on sale," said a former Apple store employee. "We didn't know much more about it than people asking us."



Major products are usually unveiled by Chief Executive Steve Jobs at special media events, and most retail employees are kept in the dark until the devices are publicly available.



"There was really no word on anything," said another former store worker of the iPhone launch. "We saw a video of the keynote, and that was basically all you knew."

The iPad is Apple's most significant product launch since the iPhone. Starting at $499 (£329), analysts estimate Apple could sell from 850,000 to 1.2 million units of the 9.7-inch touchscreen tablet in the April-June quarter.



Apple's US stores will open at 9 am on Saturday but the company has provided few details about the launch.



If the iPhone debut is any guideline, Apple will have guards and decoys in place to hold the iPad's secrets.



At one store, Apple arranged to have two pallets arrive the day before the iPhone launch, placing one in the manager's office and the other in the stock room, both under the watchful eye of security cameras. Staff said one was filled with iPhones and the other was a decoy to discourage nosy employees.



A former assistant manager at an Apple store was ordered to remain at work all night before the iPhone launch, and given strict directions that only managers were allowed to see the smartphone, right up until just before they went on sale.



"We were told to stay overnight to guard them, to make sure nobody broke in and got to them. It was all a bit insane, but it wasn't really surprising at the time," he said. "It did put me off a little, but then you would read about something being leaked and you realize why they did it."



Retail employees are in many ways the public face of Apple, charged with spreading the gospel about the company's products to tens of millions of shoppers every year. Store staff, including part-time workers, have to sign nondisclosure agreements and can be fired for talking to outsiders.



They are paid around $10 (£6.60) an hour for entry-level work to over $30 (£19.80) a hour for those who staff the "Genius Bars" where customers come looking for help.



Tech savviness is not necessarily the top priority when it comes to hiring, according to the former assistant manager. He said there was a running joke about "Gapple" because his store often mined The Gap casual wear retail chain for potential employees.



"We looked for people who were passionate about Apple, people who would be comfortable selling the product," he said.



Employees get a 25 per cent discount on iPods and Macs, but none for the iPhone. Employees said they have not yet been told whether they will get a discount for the iPad.



One of the former employees said Apple stores were a fun, upbeat place to work, despite the strictness over secrecy.



"I understand why they do it. They give you just a little bit of a peek, just to tease you," he said. "It drives people crazy but at the same time it generates all this interest. It's human nature."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

    £40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Essex

    £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before