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iPhone Sales Specialist Dishes What It's Like to Sell New Phones Today

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"I found myself counseling or consoling people."

Employees greet customers at the release of Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus at the Apple Store in Highland Village, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Houston. The highly anticipated iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are being released in stores today. (AP/Houston Chronicle, Gary Coronado)

While much of the media coverage about the iPhone 6 going on sale today focuses on the long lines followed by the joyous faces of proud owners of the new smartphone, what about the perspective of the people working inside the Apple stores?

Manoush Zomorodi, host of WNYC radio's New Tech City, wasn't able to get any current employees to go on the record with her — even with a promise not to use their name and to change their voices — but she was able to get ex-specialists to talk about their experiences of being on the floor at the Apple store.

Employees greet customers at the release of Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus at the Apple Store in Highland Village,  Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Houston.  The highly anticipated iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are being released in stores today.  (AP/Houston Chronicle, Gary Coronado) Employees greet customers at the release of Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus at the Apple Store in Highland Village, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Houston. The highly anticipated iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are being released in stores today. (AP/Houston Chronicle, Gary Coronado)

Their purpose as an Apple employee, is not necessarily to sell devices.

"We don't have to sell anything, and by that I mean, it's, you know, the stuff sells itself," Peter Harmlin, who worked in a Manhattan Apple store for three years, told the radio show. "We could put up a vending machine and people would still buy it."

But there's a reason Apple has people on the floor instead of just a machine spitting out its phones — and that's, in part, to offer a needed human element.

"It was an exercise in…in empathy," he said. "There's a little bit of psychology to it. I found myself counseling or consoling people twice my age in ways I never thought I would."

He added that when someone comes to you in tears "you just have to be a human."

And that's what Apple apparently looks for. The four people who spoke about their experiences in Zomorodi's report said they weren't necessarily tech geniuses. One of them said the position was looked at more as a "hospitality" role, rather than a technological one. A lot of their training was how to empathize with a customer seeking out a new phone or hoping to set up their laptop.

"It really is more psychological training leading up to the first day you're in a blue shirt," Harmlin said, noting the uniforms worn by Apple specialists.

For example, Harmlin once had a woman who needed help getting into a computer because her husband had died the day before and she didn't have the password.

One of the people Zomorodi spoke with said he liked being a specialist, while another admitted that "you can only handle that much energy for so long and still be able to keep a smile on your face."

An Apple Store employee shows off a new iPhone at the iPhone 6 launch at the Eaton Centre Apple Store on Friday, September 19, 2014, in Toronto. (Ryan Emberley/Invision for Apple/AP Images) An Apple Store employee shows off a new iPhone at the iPhone 6 launch at the Eaton Centre Apple Store on Friday, September 19, 2014, in Toronto. (Ryan Emberley/Invision for Apple/AP Images)

And what about their thoughts on a new product launch day?

"I would definitely say there's a backlash against early lineruppers among Apple employees," an ex-store employee named Nick told the radio host.

Another former employee named Matt also said the they're learning about new devices and their features the same time as everyone else.

"It is really difficult because the way that the employee system works in the store is you're being micromanaged a lot," he said. "It's insanely stressful."

Listen to WNYC's full interview, which includes threats made to some employees and tips on what/where to buy devices:

(H/T: Gizmodo)

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