AT&T denies ‘vacation blackout’ rumors

Reports emerged over the weekend about AT&T forcing its employees into a Sept. 21 to Sept. 30 “Vacation Blackout”.

According to an AT&T sales rep, AT&T staff has been given a vacation blackout from September 21 to September 30, just like Verizon employees. Our source also mentioned that blue carrier employees are undergoing training for an “iconic release.”

“Not true!” we’ve heard. We reached out to AT&T to see what it had to say regarding the above. An AT&T spokesperson told us this morning that there is no company-wide vacation blackout for the end of September.

We also talked to AT&T reps at other stores who implied more people are being put on duty, depending on staffing levels of that particular store, but there is no “blackout.” One New York employee will even sit out the first week of the iPhone launch due to a long-planned vacation.

TechCrunch sourced one rep from a single AT&T store, which may have its own little under-staffed blackout, but, as we heard, the policy is not nationwide.

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Weekend Reading: The Apple Experience by Carmine Gallo [excerpt]

If you are wondering why your recent trip to the Apple Store left you loving Apple more than ever or wanting your customers to feel the same way about your company, we got the book for you.

The Apple Experience” by veteran Apple/technology author Carmine Gallo deep dives into the Apple retail experience and breaks down exactly what it is that Apple retail employees are trained to do just to make a customer feel good about an experience (and want to come back). The 235-page book goes through every aspect of employee training and pours through countless hours of interviews with employees and shoppers on Apple’s five-step service: Approach, Probe, Present, Listen, and End.

Even if you do not own a retail business and just want to understand how Apple retail works, there is a lot here for you.

Gallo heeds his own advice by delivering a fun and incredibly insightful book that will help people understand the “magic” of the Apple retail experience.

The Apple Experience is at Amazon. The hardcover is $16.50, and the Kindle version is $9.99. When it hits the iBookstore, it will be available here.

An “Apple Experience” excerpt from “Chapter 10: Sell the Benefit” is below: Read more

Fair Labor Association publishes findings of Apple/Foxconn Investigation

We knew the Fair Labor Association would publish the initial findings of its investigation into Apple’s Foxconn facilities, and now the report is officially available through the organization’s website. The full report released today and is here. The press release outlining the investigation is below. According to the recommendations, Foxconn committed to “bring its factories into full compliance with Chinese legal limits and FLA standards on working hours by July 2013.”

The last we heard from the FLA about its audits into Apple’s Foxconn facilities was that it found “tons of issues.” Apple became the first technology company accepted as a member into the organization after controversies surrounding working conditions in Apple’s supply chains abroad became mainstream. As for what the FLA found in its audits of the three Foxconn facilities, here is an excerpt from the report:

FLA’s investigation found that within the last 12 months, all three factories exceeded both the FLA Code standard of 60 hours per week (regular plus overtime) and the Chinese legal limits of 40 hours per week and 36 hours maximum overtime per month. During peak production periods, the average number of hours worked per week exceeded 60 hours per worker. There were periods in which some employees worked more than seven days in a row without the required 24 hours off.

The FLA said Foxconn’s commitment will “reduce working hours to legal limits while protecting pay, improve health and safety conditions, establish a genuine voice for workers, and will monitor on an ongoing basis to verify compliance.” This will lead to a maximum 49-hour workweek, including overtime for employees and a decrease in monthly overtime from 80 hours to 36 hours. While we reported some workers were unhappy with working fewer hours, Foxconn also committed to a compensation package for workers with reduced overtime:

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Apple training retail managers on union awareness tomorrow; biannually

Apple is holding a training session with new managers to address unionizing tomorrow, reports CNet. The session will be held to address unions in the workplace and take any legal questions they might have. The internal document obtained by CNet said the following:

“This course is intended to provide managers with a practical understanding of how unions affect the workplace, how and why employees organize, and the legal do’s and don’ts of dealing with unions. This is a mandatory class for all new managers, and is required biannually for all managers.”

The course will then become a biannual occasion for all of Apple’s retail managers. The push for this course by Apple’s executive team most likely comes after early this year when Apple employees began pushing for the “Apple Retail Workers Union” that would address issues of part-time employees being underpaid. Other issues also included training opportunities and break schedules.

 

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What is different about a Tim Cook Apple?

It wasn’t much of a surprise when Tim Cook said “Apple is not going to change” in his letter to employees as newly appointed CEO following Steve Jobs’ resignation. Not long after that, we published a story about what we called Cook’s first “anti-Jobsian move”. Of course many questions arose surrounding how Cook’s sales and operations background may influence his leadership style, and how it might differ from Jobs.

Today we get a look at just how the company has changed under Cook’s guidance with the Wall Street Journal publishing a story detailing the moves the new CEO has made since taking over in August:

In recent weeks, Mr. Cook has tended to administrative matters that never interested Mr. Jobs, such as promotions and corporate reporting structures, according to people familiar with the matter. The new chief executive, 50 years old, has also been more communicative with employees than his predecessor, sending a variety of company-wide emails while addressing Apple employees as “Team,” people close to the company said.

According to the report, Cook was also behind a recent restructuring of the company’s education division, a move which split the business (which until now operated “fairly independently”) into a sales and marketing structure and incorporated it into the company-wide sales and marketing divisions. The restructuring will place additional responsibilities on Apple execs Phil Schiller and John Brandon.

Citing “former executives” and others close to the company, the WSJ claims Cook will also “be more open with shareholders” and note he’s expressed desire to meet with investors more often than Jobs. After Cook’s statement that he’s “not religious about holding cash or not holding it” during Apple’s earnings call last month, it’s not much of a surprise many expect the new CEO to be more open to stock buybacks or dividends as well.

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Posting negative comments on social media sites will get you fired at Apple

Apple likes to maintain tight control over its image and that extends to any outwardly-facing public social network, especially Facebook.

Sure, the Cupertino firm maintains its own Facebook pages and Twitter channels, basically outlets to spread news about new iTunes content, product updates, support documents, etc. in a tightly controlled manner. But If you thought each Apple employees is his or her own person and entitled to express opinion about the brand, you’re in for a surprise: Tweet/post/blog negatively about Apple and you’ll get fired. Period.

One employee in the UK went on to berate Apple “privately on Facebook”, arguing the posts were not public. ifoAppleStore.com has the story of an Apple employee named Crisp who appealed to the UK labor after being fired for “gross misconduct”:

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