Monday, July 4, 2011

Malled - Caitlin Kelly

Malled: My Unintentional Career In Retail
Caitlin Kelly
Portfolio Hardcover
Copyright: April 2011

The product description:
One woman's midcareer misadventures in the absurd world of American retail.

After losing her job as a journalist and the security of a good salary, Caitlin Kelly was hard up for cash. When she saw that The North Face-an upscale outdoor clothing company-was hiring at her local mall, she went for an interview almost on a whim.

Suddenly she found herself, middle-aged and mid-career, thrown headfirst into the bizarre alternate reality of the American mall: a world of low-wage workers selling overpriced goods to well-to-do customers. At first, Kelly found her part-time job fun and reaffirming, a way to maintain her sanity and sense of self-worth. But she describes how the unexpected physical pressures, the unreasonable dictates of a remote corporate bureaucracy, and the dead-end career path eventually took their toll. As she struggled through more than two years at the mall, despite surgeries, customer abuse, and corporate inanity, Kelly gained a deeper understanding of the plight of the retail worker.

In the tradition of Nickel and Dimed, Malled challenges our assumptions about the world of retail, documenting one woman's struggle to find meaningful work in a broken system. 
 Sometimes those newspaper reviews work. I saw an article about Malled in my local paper and thought it looked really interesting. I have to admit though, that a good part of that is because I wanted to see what the author thought of retail work, and to see how her experiences tallied with mine.

I just kept nodding my head as I read, going "yep", "been there", but also, "I'm's not like that here". Some of those customers she had are just beyond belief. There's more to the book than just the author's experiences though. She's also included some general statistics about retail - job numbers, average wages etc, which I found to be really interesting - although they're geared to the USA. For example, I knew that employee turn-over was pretty high, but a hundred percent on average?

For all the negative aspects of the work that she describes, Caitlin Kelly keeps the book light, and full of laughter, making sure that it remains a very enjoyable read. Malled is a book that a lot of people should be able to relate to - given how many of us have had at least temporary jobs on the other side of the cash register.

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