Apple CEO Tim Cook has responded to a controversial incident earlier this week in an Australian Apple Store in which six black teenagers were prevented from entering out of fear they might steal something. In a company-wide email, first obtained by BuzzFeed today, Cook said the incident "does not represent our values" and it is "not a message we would ever want to deliver to a customer or hear ourselves."
The encounter took place in at the Highpoint Shopping Centre in Melbourne, Australia, and the six boys — from Somalia and Sudan — were from nearby Maribyrnong College. After security eyed them approaching the store, an Apple representative curtly told the boys to leave immediately because "they're [security] just worried you might steal something." A video of the exchange filmed on a smartphone was posted to Facebook on Tuesday, whereupon it went viral.
"Our store leadership teams ... will be refreshing their training."
An Apple Store senior manager later apologized to the boys when they returned with their school principal to investigate the matter, but Cook says that's not enough. "While I firmly believe that this was an isolated incident rather than a symptom of a broader problem in our stores, we will use this moment as an opportunity to learn and grow," he wrote. "Our store leadership teams around the world, starting in Australia, will be refreshing their training on inclusion and customer engagement."
Read the full email below:
Subject: Apple is open
I’m sure you are all aware of the unacceptable incident which took place at our store at the Highpoint shopping center in Melbourne, Australia, on Tuesday. Several young men, who are students at a nearby school, had been asked by a security guard to leave the store. In an attempt to address the situation, one of our store employees gave an answer which shocked many of us.
What people have seen and heard from watching the video on the web does not represent our values. It is not a message we would ever want to deliver to a customer or hear ourselves. Our employee immediately expressed his regret and apologized to the students.
None of us are happy with the way this was handled. But we can all be proud of Kate, one of the senior managers at the Highpoint store.
On Wednesday, she greeted the same group of students to express a heartfelt apology on behalf of our store and our company. She reassured these young men that they and their fellow classmates would always be welcome at our store. The school’s principal later told a reporter that she delivered her message "with good grace," and one of the students said, "It feels like we have justice now."
Her words that day echoed a message you’ve heard many times from me and from Angela. It’s a simple pledge we all make to our customers and to ourselves:
Apple is open.
Our stores and our hearts are open to people from all walks of life, regardless of race or religion, gender or sexual orientation, age, disability, income, language or point of view. All across our company, being inclusive and embracing our differences makes our products better and our stores stronger.
The Apple Store Highpoint is staffed by people who share these values and illustrate our commitment to diversity. The team is made up of coworkers from Australia, as well as Egypt, Italy, India and five other nations. Collectively they speak 15 languages, including Urdu, Portuguese, Arabic and Mandarin.
While I firmly believe that this was an isolated incident rather than a symptom of a broader problem in our stores, we will use this moment as an opportunity to learn and grow. Our store leadership teams around the world, starting in Australia, will be refreshing their training on inclusion and customer engagement. These are concepts and practices they know well, but can always stand to reinforce.
Respect for our customers is the foundation of everything we do at Apple. It’s the reason we put so much care into the design of our products. It’s the reason we make our stores beautiful and inviting, and extend their reach to benefit the communities around them. It’s the reason we commit ourselves to enriching people’s lives.
Thank you all for your dedication to Apple, to our values, and to the customers we are so very fortunate to serve.