My Rich Best Friend, Apple

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Apple Inc. posted its largest quarterly profit ever on Jan. 24. So good, in fact, that it places the iPhone maker among an elite group populated by very few, including oil companies.

Hearing the news, I suddenly wondered if Apple’s super-rich status would degrade its power-to-the-people reputation. This is a company built on the image of individuality, liberty, passion and innovation. A quarterly profit of $13 billion, compared with $6 billion a year ago, doesn’t officially make Apple a fat cat, but with shares hovering at $450, it isn’t exactly a stock we all can afford.

Add to that the recent uncovering of employee treatment at Foxconn, the highly secretive, Chinese corporation that assembles Apple products, including iPhones. Its employees, who live in dorm rooms within the corporate campus, work shifts that can last 36 hours. Many have committed suicide. Foxconn, in response, erected nets around its buildings. (The story is told most eloquently in Mike Daisey’s “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.”)

Foxconn’s chief recently referred to his more than 400,000 workers as animals.

Apple has, to its credit, demanded retribution for inhumane treatment. Companies such as Foxconn have been told to reimburse wage deductions, settle overtime disputes and release child workers back to their families, among other measures.

I personally do not resent Apple its $13 billion commercial success. It is a publicly traded corporation in a capitalist society, and therefore has a responsibility to make money for its shareholders. Yet at the same time, those words seem incongruent with Apple’s brand image.

It’s almost as if a close friend has won the lottery. Will Apple’s highly publicized wealth change our perception of it? Will we have higher standards for how it operates?

Making an emotional connection with consumers is what every company wants. But those emotions come with a high price tag.

Lisa Biank Fasig
Lisa leads the creation of editorials and feature stories for COLLOQUY and oversees the work of contributing editors and writers. With 18 years of reporting experience, most in business and specifically consumer behavior, she is highly skilled at researching data and teasing out the trends. A background in graphic design enables her to see ideas in three dimensions and tell the story visually.

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