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Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail

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Overview


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 ...

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Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail

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Overview


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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kelly's debut book reveals the thankless job of a tireless retailer in a very personal way, after becoming one of the legions of low-wage workers persuading customers to buy marked-up goods. She worked for two years and three months as a retail sales associate for North Face, an upscale outdoor wear maker, after leaving her chaotic journalist career when "unwanted drama" as a reporter at the Daily News convinced her to seek solace in a mindless retail job. At age 50 and adrift careerwise, Kelly thought the retail position would be a cinch, until it became a punishing tangle of long hours, erratic shifts, rude customers, excessive workloads, and insensitive bosses. It's a stretch when she compares the horrible plight of Chinese and Asian workers to herself and her crew; their overworked, underpaid American counterparts definitely fare better. Burned out, bored, and physically deteriorating, Kelly quit the store before she reached the boiling point. While Kelly's tone is slightly whiney, she does offer an intriguing look into the retail business.(Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews

A frank look into the world of low-paying retail work.

Following her unexpected dismissal from theNew York Daily News, Kelly pursued freelancing writing. Though she wrote for numerous national publications,one year of chasing paychecks and working alone was enough—she wanted something "simple and steady." When a branch of The North Face opened in a mall near her home, the author signed on as a part-time sales associate. Initially, Kelly enjoyed her work, easily connecting with customers, and she regularly exceeded her sales goals. For a time, "being needed, being relied upon, even for simple tasks at low wage, was a balm to my soul."Eventually, however, the relentless corporate demands, spoiled and wealthy customers, chaotic working conditions and low wages diminished Kelly's intellectual and creative zest. Though data reveals that 50 percent of those hired for retail positions are gone within 90 days, the author stayed at The North Face for more than two years. In parsing her work experiences, Kelly often arrives at blunt and depressing insights about her working conditions. She weaves in disconcerting stories and facts collected from retail workers outside her store, widening her narrative lens. Kelly deftly pulls back the cleverly constructed curtain between the shiny, corporate image presented to mall shoppers and the degrading work environment inhabited by the individuals toiling behind the counter. "Working as a retail associate," she writes, "means being reminded daily that you're merely one tiny cog in an enormous global machine, from the workers six time zones away stitching apparel to the equally invisible, distant CEO collecting millions. You're completely disposable."

Despite occasional repetition, a startling story of one reporter's extended peek into a brutish new world order.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591845430
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/31/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 685,585
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Caitlin Kelly has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Seventeen, Town & Country, Glamour, New York, and Sports Illustrated, among others. She was a reporter and feature writer for the New York Daily News, the Globe and Mail, and the Montreal Gazette. She also blogs for trueslant.com and theopencase.com.
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Table of Contents

Author's Note ix

Introduction 1

1 I Seek Refuge, at the Mall 9

2 Settling in 19

3 Fitting in 49

4 Holiday Shopping Begins: Deck the Halls, Not the Customers! 71

5 The Good News 87

6 Weathering the Recession 111

7 Neglect and Disrespect 141

8 This Job can Kill You 155

9 Cogs in the Machine 163

10 Whose Idea was this? 175

11 Customers from Hell 181

12 The End of My Rope 197

Epilogue 221

Afterword to the Paperback Edition 225

Acknowledgments 229

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 57 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(34)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 57 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2011

    She's no Barbara Ehrenreich

    I typically enjoy this sort of book, because the "behind the scenes" world of the places we visit every day are fascinating, and often worthy of wider notice. The author, though, is so intent on making sure that we know she is "a tough and successful journalist" (we learn about this on every third page) who is "fluent in French" and speaks other languages (every fifth or sixth page) and has "traveled to 37 countries" (maybe once a chapter) that her own grating and grasping personality obscures the story. She seems desperate to make sure we understand that she should really be a customer of an upscale store, not an employee. And the book could use a good edit--the word "ladder" never appears without the word "clamber"; the music in Anthropologie's stores is described as "quirky" at least twice; she never mentions her fiance, Jose, without calling him "my fiance, Jose"--we remember, already. We last heard about him four pages ago. I would have liked to know more about her co-workers. A clumsily written disappointment.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 28, 2011

    Dont' waste your time

    After 17 years in retail I was hoping to find an entertaining read from someone who had something of value to share, especially given all the national press this book has gotten. Wow, I could not have been more disappointed. I am wondering what ego drives Ms. Kelly to think the world wants a play-by-play recap of how she soured to her little 'experiment' in retail, like this is some great revalation she is sharing with us? And then to ask for $26 for a hard cover version of it when one of the great themes she seems to beat on is how hard it is to make a go of it as a retail employee? Granted, if her portrayals are accurate, she picked a poor store to work at, and then realized it too late - but I get the sense that the author, however well traveled, educated, and successful she had been as a journalist, had never seen or imagined that this side of the coin of life actually existed, and was put back on her heels when she saw what most people in the world already know is out there. She just ends up coming across as whiney, pompous, and insecure.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 29, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Missed the Intention

    I won't even bother comparing Caitlin Kelly to Barbara Ehrenreich (Kelly is nowhere even close). This is a story of a Journalist (with a capital J) who gives retail a shot, due to several reasons. What reasons, you ask? Well, aside from needing money (she was fired from her previous newspaper), she is looking for "mindless work," an easy job where she can relax from the stress of journalism. When she's not giving facts about business, she's putting down everything: retail workers, retail owners, and more specifically the co-workers she is grouped with. Oh, and don't forget how awful the customers are as well. She has "nothing in common" with her young, "mostly minorities" (a point she makes repeatedly), poor coworkers who NEED this job. Remember, she doesn't need it so much as CHOOSES to take it for a relaxing, thoughtless job. I haven't been so repulsed by a story like this in...well, EVER.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 16, 2011

    Spend your money at the mall,not on "Malled"

    To be honest , I quit reading around page 120 and skimmed the rest. Kelly wrote more like an in depth newspaper article, that might have been interesting for a half or even full page read, rather than a book. Her constant referals to her brilliance as a journalist and her extensive travel and language experience was borrish. Not to mention her on-going complaints about her aching feet, sore shoulder and having to go 4 hours between meals. You'd also think a journalist of Kelly's self proclsimed superiority would make the effort to proof her work. No wonder she can't hold a job in her chosen field,.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2011

    horrible

    I can't believe that she is a journalist publish for the New York Times and other reputable publications. She continually repeats herself throughout the entire book. How many countries shes visited, how she doesn't really need the money, how she is fluent in French and Spanish. How she is great at every sport or activity out there. There was numerous spelling and grammatical errors. Hard to read. I should have walked away from reading this after she kept talking about how much knowledge she had in EVERYTHING. I wasted a couple hours reading this, that I should have spent at the mall.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 23, 2011

    Highly recommended

    I enjoyed this book very much. My appreciation for people who work in retail has become more positive because of it. I also like Kelly's style of writing -- clear and lively. She just moves you along. Her command of the language is excellent. And, yes, there are a lot of personal references, as a previous reviewer pointed out. But to me they just made the author more human.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Realistic portrayal of working retail!

    I really enjoyed Malled. Unlike other tales of retail woe, Caitlin Kelly did not whine about working retail for 240 pages. She did extensive research on the industry, and worker relations within retail and interspersed those facts throughout her book. She wrote a fair and accurate book about work retail. She even admitted her own screw-ups, as opposed to blaming all of her woes on the evil "corporate office" and I found that really refreshing and somewhat endearing.

    Overall, I really enjoyed Malled. I think a lot of my former coworkers will enjoy the book and find themselves nodding in agreement with many of Caitlin Kelly's observations. The writing is intelligent and the obvious work of a professional writer, again very refreshing.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2014

    Thalia grace

    "Cant im locked"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2014

    Jackson

    Oh kay i bought him already a shirt lets go back to camp see yah

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2014

    Kylee

    (I understand, bye!)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2014

    Mariel

    Picks dark blue jeans. (Gtg soon 'cause it's late here.)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2014

    Hannah to ally

    Im blocked from after seti so thats y i havent been on

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2014

    Spencer

    Disappears to the hospital

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2014

    Margaret

    My house. Now.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2014

    Kacy

    Whats wrong with yiu stomach

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2014

    Beats

    Hugs you

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2014

    Blue lightning

    "A pillow made from a duck..?" Derp face. ((I gtgtb. Bbt!))

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2014

    Midnight

    Where is your place?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2014

    MC

    Mascon res two

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2014

    Al

    Gtgtb bbt bai

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 57 Customer Reviews

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