Apple Japan has been quietly going above and beyond during the earthquake and tsunami crisis engulfing the country, according to an unnamed employee at one of the company’s Japanese retail stores. By his tale, Apple kept its stores open for people to use its resources to check in with family, allowed employees and their family to stay at its store, and covered some transportation and lodging costs incurred by employees.
Said employee is friends with entrepreneur, blogger, and tech-maven Kevin Rose, and sent him an e-mail detailing some of what he saw during the crisis. With all of the hardship and tragedy Japan is dealing with right now, hearing about Apple’s quiet efforts to do right by its employees, customers, and non-customers is refreshing, to say the least.
“7 hours and 118 aftershocks later, the store was still open,” the unnamed employee wrote. “Why? Because with the phone and train lines down, taxis stopped, and millions of people stuck in the Tokyo shopping district scared, with no access to television, hundreds of people were swarming into Apple stores to watch the news on USTREAM and contact their families via Twitter, Facebook, and email.”
He said that with a dearth of free WiFi access points in Japan, Apple’s retail stores are a frequent destination for Apple customers and non-customers looking to tap into a free connection to the Internet even when there’s not a crisis. “Even Android users often come to the stores,” he wrote.
Once the earthquake hit and transportation systems shut down in Tokyo, this five story Apple Store was swamped with people anxious to contact loved ones to check in or check on them.
“You know how in disaster movies, people on the street gather around electronic shops that have TVs in the display windows so they can stay informed with what is going on? In this digital age, that’s what the Tokyo Apple stores became,” he said.
With so many people flocking to the store, Apple’s employees brought out surge protectors and “10s of iOS device adapters” so that they could charge their iPhones and iPads and use them to Skype and FaceTime their loved ones.
“Even after we finally had to close 10:00 PM,” he wrote, “crowds of people huddled in front of our stores to use the WiFi into the night, as it was still the only way to get access to the outside world.”
He also noted that FaceTime performed better than Skype, though that’s an anecdotal report, but heaped praise on Apple’s services, Twitter, Facebook, and Google’s services for coming through for so many people in need.
In a follow-up e-mail he offered details about Apple letting employees and their family members stay in the safety of the Apple Stores, how management stocked up on food supplies immediately after the first quake hit, and how the company supported employees at both the retail and corporate level, and offered to pay for a variety of costs for employees trying to get home.
It’s a lengthy story, and there is much more than we quoted in our piece, and we encourage you to read it.