Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Handbags," not "purses"

Book: Retail Hell: How I Sold My Soul to the Store: Confessions of a Sales Associate

Author: Freeman Hall

Published: 2009 (F+W)

Pages: 258

I have been infinitely fortunate enough to have been at a true, traditional retail job (what up, Stein Mart!) for only about six weeks at the tail end of the summer after I graduated college while I was looking for full-time stuff that might possibly use my rapidly-not-as-new BA in journalism. (Dare to dream.)

Even that was long enough for me to be able to relate to about 90% of this kid’s experiences. All of you who have been dragged through it for much longer – you are superheroes with sore feet, and don’t ever let anybody tell you different.

Freedom got into retail because he needed money and liked clothes. This was supposed to be a stop-gap as he got his writing career on the ground, but as he moved onward and sort-of upward to a fancier store’s purse counter, he slowly started realizing the true extend of exhaustion that a full-time job in sales entails.

He is a sassy gay man who frequently refers to himself as that so I’m okay with calling him that here, and he blasts you with the real thoughts screaming behind his fake smile and charm. He’s funny and manages to mostly avoid repetition because he encounters so many different things and summarizes his few regular headaches in descriptive groups.

It’s the usual parade of people you see shopping all the time but probably don’t know that much about because you have the freedom of running in the opposite direction when you see how difficult they’re going to get: competitive compulsive shoppers, scammers trying to return goods that are clearly janky and for skeeve money, absurdly picky rich people with more money than they can do anything with, mentally unbalanceds who wander in because they have nothing better to do.

Also throw in control freak bosses, pushing sales-stealing coworkers, an eight-flight stairwalk to get into and out of the employee entrance every day, and more artificial team pep shoved down his throat than a high school football rally, and you have the perfect mixture of a hellish job.

One thing that made me pause: he only gets paid on commission, unless he sells under a certain amount, in which case he goes onto an hourly wage, but he can only do that like twice before they can terminate him? Is that legal? It doesn’t sound legal, although he works for a very fancy store and the handbags he sells are like buying used cars in varying degrees of repair.

Bookshelf, because the only way to get through a bad day at a worse job is with sarcasm. (It truly is the most magical emotion.)

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