Apple Store tips demand is a silly distraction from real change

Whether you are for or against the unionization of Apple’s retail stores, I think few would begrudge the staff many of the things they are seeking. But the call for Apple Store tips strikes me as unrealistic, unreasonable, unpopular, distracting, and likely to prove counterproductive.

The full list of things Apple Store workers are seeking is lengthy, but I think most of us could get behind the five main asks…

Many of us can get behind key union objectives

There are a number of different unions, and different union activists are polling staff to find out local priorities, but this list from Apple Store staff in London is pretty typical of the key objectives:

  • A pay increase to match the rising cost of living
  • Pay transparency, and improved alignment, to ensure workers are being compensated for the work they are doing
  • Changes to shift patterns, to ensure staff have longer hours for travel and rest between shifts
  • An end to the third-party app that is currently used to manage shifts, to enable more flexibility
  • A reduction in metric-driven management that is leading to stress, burnout, and overwork

Many of these are also in the interests of customers – and thus, also, Apple.

I’m going to get better service from an employee who feels that they are being paid fairly for their work; is not struggling to afford a subsistence existence in cities with high costs of living; is properly rested, instead of having to finish an evening shift then return for a morning one; can manage their life better through the kinds of flexible shifts offered by some other premium retail chains; and are not feeling pressured to sell me an Apple Care+ policy I don’t want, in order to hit some metric which has nothing to do with how happy I feel as a customer.

Apple very sensibly decided not to put store staff on a commission precisely so that they could focus on giving the best advice and service to customers, rather than subjecting us to high-pressure sales techniques. It seems silly to then require them to hit sales-related metrics, or any metrics which aren’t focused on the quality of the customer experience.

It’s perfectly possible to be anti-union in your general stance, or in the case of Apple Store staff specifically, while still feeling that the employees concerned are asking for reasonable things.

Apple Store tips isn’t one of them

But we learned yesterday that a unionized Apple Store in Maryland has been asking for customers to be invited to add tips at the point of payment.

This is unrealistic, unreasonable, unpopular, distracting, and likely to prove counterproductive.


There is not the slightest chance of this ever happening. Apple isn’t going to introduce this at a single store, and it sure as hell isn’t going to introduce it nationally or globally. It’s pointless asking for something which simply isn’t ever going to happen.


The US has a different tipping culture to most of the rest of the world, which is seen most dramatically in the restaurant sector. It’s legal in many states for employers to pay servers less than the minimum wage, and then expect customers to pay the difference in tips. This is why not paying at least a 20% tip is essentially short-changing workers. But even in most other countries, a 12.5% ​​tip is pretty typical. Either amount might add $5-10 to a typical mid-market restaurant dinner.

The union isn’t asking for 12.5% ​​or 20%, rather 3% or 5%, or a custom cash amount. But 3% on a base model iPhone 14 is $24, and 5% is $40. For some Macs, the tip would quickly hit three figures, so a percentage isn’t reasonable.

Asking for cash sums instead of percentages when presenting the payment terminal is just … not in line with the Apple experience. So this is simply not a reasonable ask.


Apple customers aren’t going to want to be put in this awkward position. At the time of writing, our own Twitter poll and 76% ‘please no.’


As mentioned, most of what store staff are seeking is reasonable. But guess which demand is getting the headlines this time? It’s a silly distraction from sensible requests.


The tips demand is handing Apple a weapon it can use to show how unreasonable employees are being. “Staff expect customers to tip them for letting them buy an iPhone.” This is a union shooting itself in the foot, making it less, not more, likely to achieve its primary objectives.

That’s my view – what’s yours? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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