Entries in business (97)


How Do You Like Them Apples?

This is the post in which I make some enemies.

Apple has surged to tech dominance in the last couple decades, inspiring rabid fans that have a near-religious surge when they see the hallowed bitten-Macintosh logo--some of whom have even had the corporate brand tattooed on their bodies.

Nice. Here's the thing:

Apple is teetering on the cusp of a fall.

When Cool Becomes Uncool

Things that rise to cool on the tide of "hipness" eventually become less hip when embraced by the masses. When your mother--or even grandmother--has an iPhone and a Mac, the product is no longer artsy, counterculture, antiestablishment, and noncorporate/anti-"The Man."

Doing Good--Or Not

In a time when people increasingly expect the companies they buy from and work for to be involved in the community--to do good, not just do well--Apple doesn't. (Need extreme proof of this movement? Note the new type of corporation created in 2012 that allows for hybrid profit and nonprofit companies.)

Steve Jobs closed Apple's philanthropic programs when he returned in 1997 and only in September 2011 instated a matching-gifts program through which Apple matches charitable funds donated by employees, wrote Peter Whoriskey for The Washington Post. New CEO Tim Cook may be making attempts to change that, but he has a long way to go.

And part of what people perceive as "doing good" in the world is a focus on employee well-being and opportunity. Apple doesn't rank well here, either:

  • Per this in-depth article in The New York Times, Apple Store employees could get paid more for jobs elsewhere that treat them better and offer upward mobility. (In other words, Apple is preying on its fans' rabid devotion to work them hard for low pay in dead-end jobs.) Eventually, these employees will wake up, angry and disillusioned.
  • The controversy over Apple's Chinese manufacturing processes--dangerous sweat-shop labor and environmental harm--may have been proven to be slightly exaggerated. But only slightly. There's no doubt that the people in China making Apple products are working hard in poor conditions, per Charles Duhigg and David Barboza for The New York Times and reporter Chi-Chi Zhang for CNN. It's hard to buy from a company that treats people like this--especially for antiestablishment hipsters, Apple's original devotees and most rabid fans.

You, Mr. Customer, Are an Untrustworthy Idiot

Apple's products don't respect the customer. They treat users like idiots and untrustworthy ne'er-do-wells who shouldn’t be able to replace computer parts--or even batteries.

Corollary to lack of customer respect? Lack of customer service. Personally, I've tried to get help in the Apple Store, and although the staff there isn't rude, it doesn't go out of its way to help much. E-mail support is impossible. In a recent exchange, I was outright accused of trying to cheat Apple out of a $50 iTunes credit, when I was simply trying to get a replacement for a card that had an unreadable PIN code.

Ongoing Racial Discrimination

Apple has refused to sell products to people in its stores due to their perceived nationalities. Most recently, an Apple Store in Georgia refused to sell an Iranian-American woman an iPad. Someone in the store caught the dialogue on video. Isolated incident? No. In 2011, Apple was sued by two black men who recorded on a cell phone an Apple Store employee kicking them out of the store because he didn't like "their kind." In 2010, Apple refused to sell Chinese people iPads in New York City.

Apple hasn't apologized for any of these cases.

Sorry, Fans

A company can't keep going like this without eventual consumer disillusionment--or even backlash, as the pendulum swings from the extreme of "rabid fan" to the opposite extreme of "pissed-off former devotee."

We're starting to see it in some of the recent negative stories hitting the media. And without the Svengali-like presence of Steve Jobs, it's just a matter of time.

Tick, tock.


Take a Walk

I can't be the only person who does her best thinking while moving, or makes her closest connections with other human beings while undertaking some sort of collective activity. I've had my best business ideas while out for an easy run. I've made some of my closest friends at the gym and in my running group.

Yet I sit on my tail end in chairs attending meetings and serving at desks most of the day. Or in the front seat of my car, while my tail end heads to new chairs in different locales. This is while I'm supposed to be thinking or bonding with people.

Even when people suggest meetings to "get me out of the office" to talk in a more relaxed fashion--a common tactic for people who want to network or to sell me things--we go to a restaurant, coffee shop, or bar.

More sitting.

I'm going to revolt. I'm tired of business lunches, coffees, and drinks. And I'm tired of sitting on my butt most of the day. When I need to have a meeting that doesn't require a white board or a computer--and, really, most don't--I'm going to suggest some sort of physical activity.

All the people--mainly men--who go golfing with clients and business partners? I'll take that as evidence that I'm not alone. Maybe we nongolfers just really don't know what else to do other than sit at a restaurant or in a coffee shop or in a bar, if we aren't in an office setting. Or even sit at an athletic event, where we continue to flatten our backsides while watching other people play.

Fortunately, I live in the fourth largest city in the United States, Houston, where there are plenty of interesting urban expanses and beautiful green places to walk--all in reasonable proximity. About a mile from my office, there are three walking/jogging trails. There are also countless gyms and athletic facilities, and most people I know belong to one of them. (Because even though there are many great places to be outdoors, the summer months in Houston can be unbearable in the afternoon.)

No excuses.

And no, nothing too strenuous will be required. I don't think well or have great conversations when I'm doing speedwork or when I'm on my third rep of a really heavy set of weights. I'm talking about taking a stroll, trying new equipment at the gym, or even giving putt-putt golf a try. (I'll pass on the real golf. Sorry, Dad.)

Of course, full disclosure: In my ideal world, I'd get to wear pajamas or athletic clothes at all times. So in a way, this will help bring me closer to my ideal world. Bonus.

Want to meet with me? Let's talk a walk. I'm almost always up for that.

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