Monday, June 25, 2012

What if the Apple Store Workers Were The Worst Workers Around?

Matt Yglesias posted a useful piece with the title "Imagining A Better World: What If The Apple Store Were The Worst Job Around?"  He points out that jobs at the Apple Store, while low paying, are enough to get you out of poverty and are a lot better than what the least-well-off have now. "The really urgent question isn't why aren't Apple Store jobs better, but why are so many jobs worse than this?"

In so far as this piece is meant to blunt criticism of Apple, I agree. But I think it is also useful to point out that many workers lack the qualities that would ever allow them to work at the Apple Store. They are too slow, unattractive, personally unpleasant, etc. These people need jobs too, but in a free market they will always be paid less than Apple Store employees.

The Apple Store experience is largely about aesthetics. If you are honest with yourself you will realize that most people won't want to come to the Apple Store to be served by someone who is, say, obese and barely literate. People go to Apple Stores because they feel cool. If Apple can't find workers who are at least superficially appealing, they might as well shut the stores and sell their products at Target.

Yet, realistically, adjectives like obese or surly or barely literate describe literally tens of millions of Americans. These people need jobs too! Maybe some of these people can work at other retail jobs, and some can work as janitors, house cleaners, fast-food cooks, etc. But I think it's an open question how most of these people will be employed in the long run, as factory-type manufacturing employs fewer, and retail itself struggles to compete with online sales. Yglesias envisions a future with lots of nurses, massage therapists, and personal trainers. Maybe so, but these jobs require a minimum level of intelligence and personal appeal that is simply lacking for a huge number of less fortunate Americans.

1 comment:

  1. I think I agree with what you're saying, except that you seem to be implying that janitors and fast-food employees are obese, unpleasant, and/or barely literate.