One woman’s account of retail hell

It’s not exactly the corporate ladder, but many of America’s employees spend some time working in retail.

When the economy turned south in 2009, author Caitlin Kelly found her freelance writing gigs shriveling up, one by one. In an effort to stay afloat she began working at in The North Face at her local mall.

She wound up encountering the struggles, fears and frustrations 15 million American workers feel every day.

Her latest book — “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” — chronicles her two years as a frontline retail sales associate and diagnoses a broken system of low-wage/high-expectation, emotionally taxing work.

“Retail looks like it’s low-skilled. It’s not. That’s why I wrote the book. I came away with a lot of respect for a job that demands a high degree of emotional and intellectual skill,” says Kelly, from her home in Tarrytown, New York. “It’s a low-wage job, which to a lot of people means it doesn’t take a lot of skill. It doesn’t mean that. It just means it pays badly. There are people behind counters with Ph.D.s and MAs. And even if they don’t have a college education, they’re still bringing an A-game. But they don’t get the corporate respect.”
 
On the inside

Kelly bristles at a common theme in the criticism of her book: Namely, that her perspective is that of a privileged outsider.
   
“Define privilege: I’m not wealthy, I live in a one-bedroom apartment, I have an old car. If I was that privileged, I wouldn’t have taken a low-wage job and stayed in it for 27 months,” she says. “People have said, ‘Oh, you’re whining.’ You know what? You go do that job for a while. Go get emotionally abused for the next 27 months and see if you come out all perky and shiny.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Tattooed, bearded suspect sought in Williamsburg bike theft:…

The suspected thief faces grand larceny charges after investigators said he entered the building on North 5th Street in Williamsburg.

National

Pioneers for domestic violence push on

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article. Two decades have passed since the O.J. Simpson trial captivated the country. But in the 20 years…

Local

Food truck with a mission hires at-risk New…

A group branding itself as food trucks for social justice specifically hires and trains young men and women with troubled pasts.

Local

Newest java joint in bastion of hipness is…

Little may represent the change the neighborhood is undergoing right now like the arrival of the first Starbucks. The chain which is ubiquitous in Manhattan, opened a Williamsburg store at…

Movies

Review: 'A Most Wanted Man' works better when…

In one of his last roles, Philip Seymour Hoffman headlines the John Le Carre adaptation of "A Most Wanted Man," about the pursuit of a Chechen refugee.

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, July 22: 'Royal Pains,'…

Catch a new episode of "Royal Pains" where Hank has to help out a housesitter.

Entertainment

'Bachelorette' recap: Episode 10, 'Men Tell All'

Why does the #MenTellAll episode exist? Because they don’t, and it shouldn’t. Is it a lazy vehicle to sell more ad space? Is it to…

Television

Olivia Williams explains the ins and outs of…

Olivia Williams plays a botanist beginning to suspect her physicist husband's work on the Manhattan Project might be ominous in WGN America's "Manhattan."

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

NFL

5 players to watch at Giants training camp

Metro takes a look at five players who will be on everyone’s mind when Giants training camp gets underway.

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

MLB

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according…

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according to report

Parenting

Buy gently worn back-to-school clothes with Kidizen

Kidizen allows parents to buy and sell gently worn back-to-school clothes.

Wellbeing

Ruling could be beginning of the end for…

This morning, a federal appeals court threw out an IRS regulation that implements subsidies for low-income Americans who bought insurance through Obamacare. These Affordable Care…

Tech

RocketSkates let users roll with a motor

Los Angeles company Acton has raised funds on Kickstarter to roll out a nifty alternative – motor-powered "RocketSkates."

Tech

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony becomes a tech entrepreneur

He's been an All-Star, an Olympian, and a celebrity spokesperson. Now NBA player Carmelo Anthony is adding the position "tech entrepreneur" to his resume. Along…