31 May 2011

Malled. Really?

In the late summer of 2008, I returned to the United States from Spain (at least we Americans don't have a 25 percent unemployment rate, eh?) and found the job market a vast wasteland. Like so many of my journalism brethren before me, I turned to retail. I worked at an independent pharmacy and gift shop until October 2009, when I was laid off.

So I have little sympathy for Caitlin Kelly, author of Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail. She takes a stab at exposing the plight of the proletariat, but Upton Sinclair she is not. For starters, her "career" in retail was two, then reduced to one day a week stints at The North Face in a New York suburb. When I read career, I think 40 hours a week. She complains about climbing like a monkey in the dark, dirty stock room, I raise her a stock room that occasionally flooded with raw sewage. It brought another perspective to the phrase "crappy job."
I can, however, commiserate with her chapter on customers from hell, her apt depiction of tyrannical managers, thinly-veiled nepotism and short-sighted company rules. Her stories about slaving for little more than minimum wage strike a chord.

But Kelly spends too much time name-dropping publications she's written for, and alternately fondly reminisces about and looks down upon her less-than-middle-class former co-workers. If the book is about your unintentional career in retail, give me more of the hilarious and tragic stories. My retail brothers-in-arms and I love swapping tales of woe -- once, an old lady threw a temper tantrum in my store when I told her that she couldn't purchase an individual rubber glove and instead must buy the sealed box. After days of tantrums, she vandalized a rubber glove box, then gleefully trekked in each week thereafter for a single rubber glove from it after our manager gave up. Or there was the woman who used a live, molting parrot as her shopping consultant. The stories are endless.
So in conclusion, the book was a quick read and a good introduction for those unfamiliar with the retail machine. But for who have worked in the ranks, it wasn't a complete picture.

3 comments:

  1. You plan out the book, I'll submit a few whoppers from the girls here. There are some GOOD stories!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello,
    Saw an article about you on philly.com and wanted to get in touch. Whats your email address?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Sherm, you can mail me at newspapernerd1.0 at gmail dot com.

    ReplyDelete