Apple Inc. (AAPL) Reverses Policy That Cut Store Retail Staff

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) vice president John Browett is like an umpire in a baseball game or a line judge in a football game. He is someone people should not really know or acknowledge he’s there – if he’s doing a good job. So if there are a couple of stories in the media about a decision he made, then one knows he didn’t make a good umpiring or line-judging decision.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)

Browett, who joined Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) in June as the company’s new vice president in charge of retail – meaning he oversees the company’s 370 Apple Stores around the world – was under fire this week for implementing a policy where retail store staff numbers had been reduced and hours cut just weeks before the highly anticipated launch of the iPhone 5. That was one thing, but Browett is in the headlines for changing the policy and forcing Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) to admit a “mistake” with the policy.

But what was the mistake for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)? The decision to cut the work force, or the hiring of Mr. Browett? There seems to be some indication that the policy was not a mistake, but a formula put in place by Browett, who claimed that the Apple retail stores had become “bloated” with employees. It was discovered that Browett – who came from U.K.-based electronics store chain Dixons, where he was the CEO – installed a policy that included firing all new hires still on probation, reducing or eliminating all overtime, ending recruiting events and laying off all employees who cannot work less than 32 hours in a week.

Once this got out this week, a couple of bloggers who cover Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) doings – and misdoings – well, went off.  One called the decision “one of the worst” for the company in 10 years, and wrote, “This has the stench of a man looking to make a name for himself.” Whether the mistake was the policy or the hiring of Mr. Browett, one may not be sure. But at least one opinion was tweeted by John Margolis, who writes in the “How to Spend It” magazine for U.K.-based Financial Times. He tweeted in June:  “#Apple has hired bloke from Dixons to run retail. Tim Cook very excited about this as he’s Mr Customer Service. Has he been to a Dixons?”

Ouch. Perception is important to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and its many investors – including hedge funds like David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital.