back to article Apple store staffers probed like 'criminals', lawsuit claims

Apple retail store staffers, routinely frisked for stolen goods at the end of a shift or before breaks, complained to Tim Cook of being treated like “criminals”, as part of a written policy that was “demeaning”. The claim was contained in a 2013 lawsuit filed in California, parts of which the judge unsealed yesterday, that …

  1. TRT Silver badge

    It's fairly common practice.

    We used to get a shakedown every few weeks at random when I worked at Tesco. Like I was going to sneak half a pound of pick'n'mix out down my trouser leg...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's fairly common practice.

      The same applied at Homebase and that was 16 years ago.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's fairly common practice.

      The issue here is not so much the shakedown, it is the fact that the company did not pay for the shakedown time.

      As this is not pre-planned and not subject to official rotas, shifts, etc it falls under the definition of overtime and is automatically eligible to overtime pay (which in some places is also regulated).

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: It's fairly common practice.

        Depends how long it takes. A random shakedown shouldn't hold anyone up by more than 10 minutes at most.

        I was contracted to be in store from 6.30pm to 10.30pm Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but we were frequently let out early if we had finished stocking that delivery and there was no line that was in the warehouse that wasn't on the shelves. Some managers would let us get changed then we'd have to strip the shelves of empty cardboard until 10:30, when we'd be out promptly. Other managers would let us out at 10:15 or 10. And sometimes we'd be lined up ready to go when three or four guys from security would step around from another aisle and we'd have our bags and pockets turned out.

        It's swings and roundabouts. You might be out five or ten minutes late one night, five or ten minutes early the next.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's fairly common practice.


      I used to work retail security and it was common to do random spot-checks of staff as they left the premises.

    4. Tachikoma

      Re: It's fairly common practice.

      When I used to work in Poundland as a student, we were all searched on exiting the site, when I worked in Argos however, I had full access to the electronics and jewellery safe and nobody ever got searched.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Can't keep track of SNs and remotely iBrick the stolen goods?

      When you have a product that needs to touch base with Apple's underground lair on an hourly basis, the alternative solution seems obvious.

    6. SolidSquid

      Re: It's fairly common practice.

      From the sound of the article though this isn't every few weeks, it's every time employees leave the shop floor (either going on break or leaving after their shift), which is going to add up to a fair bit of time pretty quickly

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's fairly common practice.

        A supermarket I worked at tried this on me. I simply said no. I was sent to the manager and told her no too, I suggested she call the police if she really thought I'd stolen something. Eventually they gave up.

        Once they locked us in after our shift because they said we hadn't finished the job. My then girlfriend called the police who had a quiet word and that never happened again.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: It's fairly common practice.

          Bag checks were part of the contract. A refusal equalled dismissal. They'd never lock you in if you hadn't finished, but the slime toad-faced supervisor would stand there watching how you worked for your next three shifts if he thought you'd been slacking. The somewhat nicer supervisor would revisit what you'd been asked to do and then ask super-Babs to give you a hand once she'd sorted out the milk - the important thing was getting the job done. Stock on shelves, not on Winsfords.

  2. Valeyard


    I worked in a bank for years, and even on the kinda-common occasion that a few grand went missing (usually just fell down the back of a safe etc to be found by the locksmith next day) we would offer to produce our bags etc and the boss would categorically state that there will never be a bag search

    and yet a frigging ipod nano or something goes missing and these people take this shit?

    1. qwertyuiop

      Re: what..

      Yeah, but you have to remember what thin profit margins there are on iProducts and the negligible profit the company as a whole makes. That one iPod Nano could make all the difference!

      1. John 104

        Re: what..

        Gads, I hope you are joking!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A matter of trust

    If your employer can't trust you, should you work there? No.

    I understand people stay in the job anyway if it's hard to find another job..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A matter of trust

      We have about £10 million worth of kit in our warehouse at any point, with many easily to smuggle units costing well in excess of £1000 each. The rewards for nicking the odd bit unfortunately far outweigh the risk for many.

    2. Velv

      Re: A matter of trust

      If only it were as simple as trusting everyone...

      Trust is something that is built in levels, so it's not for employers to trust employees whole heartedly, it is to treat them with respect. Shops have obviously suffered from employees taking their staff discount to the extreme otherwise searching would never have started in the first place.

      If searching is necessary, then it should be a formal part of the paid employee time and should be completed in a discrete and respectful manner. History has proven that not everyone can be trusted.

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Amazon set the precident

    They took it all the way to the US Supreme Court and won the right not to pay their drones during bag (and other) searches at the end of the shift.

    Apple could just do the right thing and set an example and pay their staff. Ethics and all that....

    Nah, thought not.

    1. Vince

      Re: Amazon set the precident

      Apple can't afford to do that - they're a bit short on cash, so whilst I'm sure they could produce a "beautiful" document about the ethics, the problem is they can't afford it. Margins are tight and they're struggling for cash.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Amazon set the precident

        This is sarcasm, right? Because $6 BILLION in the bank doesn't seem "short" to me.

        1. Ammaross Danan

          Re: Amazon set the precident

          6? Try SIXTEEN.

    2. SolidSquid

      Re: Amazon set the precident

      Quick look for that case, it sounds like the difference here is that it's being brought under California law rather than federal law. The federal courts were criticised in that case for having weaker protections for employees when doing things like waiting to clock in, which the security checks were classed as the same as

  5. Paul Woodhouse

    hmm, remember taking the piss out of one of the guys at work + security by sneaking a single screw into each one of his many pockets, and then laughing at the ever lengthening queue to get out as they had to find out exactly what each indication from the hand held metal detector meant...

    1. NeilMc

      Now that it is genius

      get everybody in the store doing that for a week and suddenly the security check will drop off.

      Only search if you have a theft / loss issue.

      Otherwise trust and breed trust

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quite right too

    Have you seen their prices ? It's highway robbery.

  7. JimmyPage

    Was it Dell, or HP

    that once had a box near the exit with all the commonly stolen goodies (chips, boards IIRC) free for staff to take ?

    The logic being it was cheaper to give the staff what they'd steal than setup a morale-busting infrastructure to try and stop it

    1. John G Imrie

      Re: Was it Dell, or HP

      IIRC. Workers on the production line at Cadbury's where allowed to eat anything they wanted. Most workers stopped after a couple of days.

      I wonder if the practice continues now that they are owned by Kraft

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: Was it Dell, or HP

        My employers used to do repairs for Mars, we always got a goody bag when we left. Very much doubt anyone does that these days :(

      2. Vince

        Re: Was it Dell, or HP

        No, because Cadbury is owned by Mondelez, not Kraft now.

        But also "no" because they've stopped the free chocolates delivery at Christmas (I think it was Christmas) etc that had always been done...

      3. Gannon (J.) Dick

        Re: Was it Dell, or HP

        Makes perfect sense to me, everyone from the Chairman down to the Interns would be laughing themselves silly.

        Candy is for Holiday sale seasons. It is nearly inedible fresh but like fine wine ages into a delight after 6 months of cold storage. It is formulated to behave that way.

        aside: Now if you were in the Tonic Water Department you would probably have to bring your own Gin. Rather disrupts the whole "free" mime for the flimsiest of excuses; the prospect of tight as opposed to loyal employees.

    2. NeilMc

      Re: Was it Dell, or HP

      Mars Confectionary had a similar solution.

      All spoiled product was boxed at the end of the production line for staffers and visitors to help themselves should they feel the urge......

      You soon hated the taste of chocolate or moderated your intake... No Augustus Gloop there and little of no theft. Same at Guinness brewery

  8. chivo243 Silver badge

    In a previous life

    I worked on a construction site. After a string of "shrinkages" in tool sheds and machine shops there were surprise searches of the workers at the gate. A few guys got popped for having the odd screwdriver or wrench in their lunch boxes. Once the word of the search made it's way back the exit line, there were a dozens upon dozens of lunchboxes and coolers littering the area. A few of the less bright guys left lunchboxes with their name somewhere on it, and the tools they were re-appropriating inside. Pinkslips the next day? You figure it out ;- }

    So, this isn't such a shock to me, I live in the real world.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: In a previous life

      In the "real world" an employee stealing an iPod costs you $50.

      An employee annoyed at being held up for an hour every day to be felt up by the office manager - and who it takes it out on your customers costs you a hell of a lot more.

      Apple justify their generous profit margins by high quality staff in their stores. If they treat their "geniuses" like criminals then that customer experience is likely to decrease

  9. Stevie


    Headline lacks El Reg-appropriate levels of salacious double-entendre.


    Must try harder.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The trick is....

    Working in a warehouse as one of the tech support /Dev team. Free unchecked reign of the place, access to everything electronic and the ability to work after hours (oh and let's not forget access to the cctv). Oddly enough I didn't even bother getting a copy of the database on a backup.

    Still never had a bag search or even been hinted at that I might have pilfered anything. I must have one of those faces.

  11. Youngone Silver badge
    Black Helicopters


    There is such a thing as trust. My boss trusts me, and I reward that trust by not stealing stuff.

    If he ever decides he wants to check my bag when I leave work at night, I'll tell him to get a search warrant, just as I'd tell a policeman in the same situation.

    1. Archaon

      Re: Trust

      And in that scenario you'll likely find you'll be suspended and then told to find a new job. If the ability for your employer to search you is written into your contract then you'll also likely find it written in that refusing a search is classed as gross misconduct.

      Yes, you could challenge that at HR level or even court later on (you'll almost certainly lose, by the way). Or you could just stick your nose (or fingers) up at them and look for another job where you feel all warm and fuzzy because you're trusted. That's fine. Most people will just open their damn bag for a minute because it's really not worth it.

      Bottom line is that low paid front line staff (be it factory, distribution or retail) are the most likely to steal physical product or 20 quid out of the till. Though now I work in an office and I notice that if anything ever goes missing the instant (yet hushed) consensus is "it must have been the cleaners" as though the cleaner is some kind of bogeywoman.

      To give a fair and balanced view, while this is happening no doubt the fat cats are busy playing golf with a brown envelope stuffed into their caddy, but that's not the point here.

      Ex-retail myself and while it had its moments, let's be frank: it's a shit sector to work in, with shit pay, shit customers and lots of temptation. I was in food retail and when you're on 5p an hour above minimum wage (so that they can say they're ethical and pay above minimum wage, natch) that sandwich in the chiller that costs you 20 minutes of work can look mighty tempting. In fact I know someone who was sacked for just that (the good old "I'll pay for it later" routine).

      I can see why some people would crack even if they're not normally that way inclined. Let alone the ones that are that way inclined. And correspondingly I can see why companies take measures to prevent it.

      1. MonkeyCee

        Re: Trust

        "Bottom line is that low paid front line staff (be it factory, distribution or retail) are the most likely to steal physical product or 20 quid out of the till. "

        My experience is that this is utter bollocks. If you're prepared to work for minimum/low wage, then you're usually desperate enough to not want to lose your job over a spot of petty theft.

        Not saying it doesn't happen, but you get a lot more theft by those with entitlement, managers, executives and the like.

        I worked in kitchens for about 3 years, of a dozen cases of theft two where by non-staff (customer and a supplier) and all the others where by people who where in some position of authority. Well, several of those where never proven, but after being accused with some evidence the executive chef/floor manager left for the day never to return.

        Worked in a bar, there was ongoing theft from the tills (free drinks where considered acceptable shrinkage), eventually tracked down to an assistant manager who took the cash when transporting the tills from bar to safe, in a spot where the cameras didn't cover. Tills almost always have a camera or two on them, and if you're regularly short or seen putting cash in without a linked sale then you get busted pretty quick.

        Same for missing computers/smart phones in companies. Higher ups think it's an acceptable perk and are more certain they can get away with it if caught. At worst they'll be asked to resign, never fired.

        The concept that frontline staff are less honest than executives is laughable. Next you'll be telling me that the executives are less likely to be sociopaths :)

        1. Archaon

          Re: Trust

          I never said execs are more honest (you do know a brown envelope is slang for a bribe, don't you?). I said that front line staff are more likely to take items like stock or cash from the till. Which for a start is bleeding obvious because execs are off in some office somewhere and as a matter of course don't have direct access to things like tills and stock rooms.

          I didn't think this needed to be said (also bleeding obvious), but to be clear I'll state that regardless of which group we're discussing we're still discussing a minority of people. So yes, you are fully correct that most people on minimum wage do not want to be fired over a spot of petty theft. But I'd put money on there being more incidents of theft per head at that level than there is at management level.

          In the chain I worked in the assistant and store managers had generally been around long enough (and paid just about enough) to be trustworthy. Most were in their 40s if not older, and had built a career in retail, either at that chain or elsewhere. It might not be glamorous work but with salaries up to £35k + bonus for managers it's not something that most would risk for a cheeky £20 note out of a till.

          Most theft happens at the bottom end of the scale. Most corruption and bribery happens at the upper end of the scale. The middle bit, by and large, is generally a little more sensible. That's not to say that people in the middle are actually any more honest but the risk to the career and financial situation is higher, and they're not important enough to have the opportunity to be bribed for anything.

  12. JaitcH

    You think THAT'S bad?

    There is a branch of the international GIANTS Supermarket chain in District 7 of Ho Chi Minh City (SaiGon).

    Any time a shelf-stacker, supervisor, assistant manager and even the MANAGER leave the store to enter the rest of the Mall they are hand searched as well as wanded by the store security staff. This is done immediately in front of the store which is on the basement level.

    FEMALE staff are also searched by MALE security types.

    At the close of business the security guards repeat the insult then lock the staff, including the MANAGER out of the store. The Vietnamese manager, who has worked for many supermarkets, told me it is really an insult that he cannot have his own keys to the entrance doors of his store.

  13. John Tserkezis

    I used to have job once.

    They never searched us. After reading the article, I thought it was odd, till I remembered my employer didn't have "Apple" in the company name. That must be it.

  14. TheMole


    But aren't the Apple shop staff geniuses ?

    You won't catch a genius out with a simple bag-check !

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Trust


    from the hallowed pages of this very site

    SAP exec charged with $1,000 LEGO bar-code caper

  16. chivo243 Silver badge

    Did they use?

    Futurama's Probulator? Is that painful? Sorry, we haven't started yet...

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