Retail Hell
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Retail Hell

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3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  892 ratings  ·  176 reviews
As the token male sales associate in the handbag department, Freeman Hall knows a thing or two about ready-to-wear chaos. Speaking for every wage slave who has ever handled a bogus return, Freeman throws open the gates of Retail Hell, revealing stories from his twenty years of working "on the floor."
Hardcover, 260 pages
Published September 18th 2009 by Adams Media Corporation (first published September 1st 2009)
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Danielle
Usually when I read a book like this, the best I can say for it is "Good for what it was." I mean, you know you're getting fluff (in this case, fashion-centric, "Curse the snobby rich, but oh, how I wish I could be them," bosses suck kind of fluff) so it's not like you're going into it expecting to have any great metaphysical revelations or anything.
Well, the best I can say for this book was that it was kind of okay for what it was. Honestly I expected to get more entertainment and laughs for my...more
Megg
I have read some reviews for this book and am actually surprised by some of the negatives expresses about it. I personally enjoyed all the 'F' bombs thrown about the dialogue, it made his personal experiences feel more sincere and, quite frankly, hilarious. His personal dialogue was very funny in a crass and crude sarcastic manner.
I also found nothing offensive about the last chapter that seems to have had some reviewers cringing. That shit actually happens in retail (pardon the pun).
Freeman Ha...more
Elizabeth
Retail Hell by Freeman Hall (pp. 272)

Retail Hell is another popular blog turned into a book. Freeman Hall is a career retail sales associate drawing on his experience at multiple high-end department stores to create a fun composite of the good, the ugly, and uglier of the other side of the sales counter. Theft, poop, massive spenders, bored rich women, discount seeking denizens, prostitutes, fraudsters, corporate rah-rah queens, and retail lifers face off against Hall as we watch him evolve from...more
Maria Neis
The back cover of the book displays the quote that "Freeman Hall is a retail-centric Perez Hilton." I guess it's true, in the way that Hall is sassy, witty, and doesn't hold back. Retail Hell is a quick, light read that will appeal to anyone who has worked in retail, especially specialty goods or high-end stores. Hall gives us a poignant look inside "The Big Fancy" (his alias for the upper-crust department store employing him) from training through sales, and holds nothing back. Each chapter giv...more
Courtney (Fuzzy.Coffee.Books)
I find that most books I buy are impulse buys. I rarely go into a bookstore looking for something specific. On this occasion, however, I was in the biography section in search of a birthday gift for my Grandmother. That's where I spotted this little gem.
When I read the back of the book, I thought it would be an interesting read. One of my best friends has a retail job and I loathe it, because we work very conflicting schedules and rarely get to hang out. So I thought reading a no-holds barred co...more
Joey
Yes, two stars and here's why...the first 50 pages are funny, the author's bitchy, gay salesclerk is outrageous, but the act wears thin as you muddle through the rest of the chapters.

Hall overdoes the pop cultural references which will quickly date this book and make it even less funny in a couple years. References to flash-in-the-pan starlets and current television shows (and I mean current...which will provides the book with another issue later in this review), are slightly humorous when you...more
Marcia
I read a magazine article in a waiting room and this book was mentioned. I thought "I work in retail" I felt I would probably find the book amusing. But, I really didn't. I think some people are naturally funny and can write funny books. In this case, I felt the writer didn't have a natural wit but intentionally tried to write a funny book. He just couldn't pull it off in my opinion. He writes about specific customers and their peculiarities. Parts felt true but then he seems to go for the exagg...more
Mary (BookHounds)
This is the reason I will never ever work retail again: If the customers don't get you, the management will. I thought this was just hilarious and you couldn't make this stuff up in a million years. Much like Jen Lancaster's Bitter is the New Black and Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World's Most Coveted Handbag by Michael Tonello, you will find it hard not to laugh at what happens in a fancy department store. At least I guessed it right and got the department store corre...more
Cyn
This was a blog turned into a book a la "Waiter Rant" but does not quite measure up to WR in terms of writing. That said, it was totally enjoyable for me and I was into it enough that I missed my subway stop and that's never happened before.
Jennifer
Hall's wannabe upscale Clerks falls sadly short of its mark - if this is hell, it's only the first circle. In the first 24 hours of my retail career, I accumulated funnier stories than these. And I tell them better. In fact, one suspects that the author's 20 year stint in retail on the way to becoming a screenwriter might have less to do with being ground down by The Store and more to do with his being a lousy writer. Those outside the business might find a few shocked laughs here. Those inside...more
Yolanda
Mar 05, 2010 Yolanda rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Yolanda by: Jackie
Oh. My. God. This book was all kinds of awesome! This is a must read for anyone who has ever worked in retail. Doesn't matter what type of items you sold or in what store, but these stories about his customers you can definitely relate to. I love the names that Freeman Hall gives his customers. I can relate to that. My co-workers and I would name ours, and the ones that we usually named were not the nice ones. The nice ones we would remember their name. Or at least not call them Vomit Girl. Or D...more
Carolyn
Having worked in retail for much of my life, this title caught my eye at once. My first thought was "Someone wrote my book!"
I have experienced every one of these comical situations at one time or another! Nice to know I was not alone.
This is a vacation read, not at all serious and if you are offended by bad language, stay away. However, if you have ever worked in any kind of store, serving the public, you will love this book!
Alex
Sometimes this book was really hilarious because it's the truth; customers just don't get it! And other times, I just thought the mark was missed on humor. However, I enjoyed the read and have recommended it to all of my fellow retail slaves. Now when someone asks me "Do you work here?" as I'm immersed in a task that clearly I would only be doing if I worked there, I think of Freeman and what he would say; "No."
Noël
Perhaps you need to have worked retail to get it, but I haven't laughed this hard in years. 10 pages in, I had to put the book down because I was laughing so hard, tears were streaming down my face and I couldn't see the pages!
Amy
I started it, could be funny, but I just could not get past all the swearing. I do NOT recomment this book
Lizzy
Although humorous at times, I find it no where near as fun to read as "Let's Pretend This Never Happened". But then we can't all be Jenny Lawson. My particular favorite right now has to be Shoposaurus Carnotaurus. This chapter has the award as being the only chapter that I have quoted something to my husband.


I had customers and fellow salespeople both exclaim, "How can you wait on that woman? She's awful! She's treating you so badly!"
I just smiled at them and replied, "Her bark is worse that he
...more
Rich
A little bit of Freeman Hall goes a long way. And a book is too much. (And for the record I've worked in retail for five years.)

Hall moved to L.A. to become a screenwriter, but to pay the bills, he wound up selling ladies' handbags at Nordrstrom. (Not so cleverly disguised here as Big Fancy.) He would have rather been working selling men's wear, measuring guys' inseams. (They don't do that in men's wears sale these days.) And that's just one of the many things that quickly wear out their welcom...more
Anita Dalton
Sigh... I worked retail for far too many years, selling lower-end shoes on commission, to have as much sympathy for this book as I wanted. I am always in the camp of the worker. Once you toil in retail, your sentiments almost always side with the sales clerk. But Freeman Hall, while amusing and interesting, tested that at times. It's clear "The Big Fancy" is Nordstrom and I have to wonder about the veracity of some of his stories because if the Nine West group would fire clerks for excessive use...more
Karen Hansen
In Retail Hell, author Freeman Hall recounts his fifteen years selling handbags at a major department store that he has named "The Big Fancy". If you do a minimal amount of digging, it's easy to figure out the store and location of his former employer. This also happens to be my former employer and location, which made reading this book all the more interesting and held me back from writing this review until I had resigned.

The book was highly entertaining to read and I breezed right through it....more
Samantha
As a former Retail Slave, this book triggered some serious customer-induced PTSD. Some of Freeman Hall's anecdotes almost seem too ridiculous to actually be true, and I'm sure I would think that they were grossly exaggerated if I hadn't lived through similar experiences. Sometimes truth really IS stranger than fiction.

There were a few points in the book where Hall complained about the basic responsibilities of his job, and I have little patience for that. In any type of customer service field yo...more
Jackie
I'd actually rate this a 4.5 if it were possible. I loved Freeman's easy, conversational way of writing. It's not usually my prefered sort of writing to read (if that makes any sense), but the stories being told were just that: gossipy type stories which lend themselves well to that style of writing. I think I loved this book so much because, having worked as a "Retail Slave" for some years myself, I could easily relate to just about everything he said...and I sell books, not handbags! Who in th...more
Jennifer
Although this book wasn't filled with rich meaning to take away and use in everyday life, and although the author may not be the next Ernest Hemingway or Davis Sedaris, I thoroughly enjoyed this read. This book is a must read for anyone who has worked retail-- especially those who have worked in a department store. Although Hall worked in a store in California, and I worked at a Big Not-As-Fancy in Minnesota, apparently customers and managers are the same nationwide. The customers who want extra...more
Karen
Freeman Hall goes to work selling handbags at a department store he calls, "The Big Fancy." It's an elegant store with a very liberal return policy which is liberally abused -- Nordstrom shoppers will recognize it immediately. Like the store's return policy, the use of profanity in Hall's story is liberal... be forewarned. Although some sections of the book went on a bit too long, I generally found it a funny read. What did I learn from this book? Despite their polite, smiling response, the Nord...more
Robin Nicholas
This was written by someone who worked at Nordstrom in the Handbag Department for 15 years. He has changed all names and situations and calls the store in the book The Big Fancy....but it is Nordstrom. So...you would think I would love this book considering I have worked there for over 20 years. Sorry, but this guy is not really that funny. He has chapters about different types of annoying customers.....sterotypes. Yes, I can see a glimmer of truth in there...but he goes so far over the top that...more
carissa
Enter Freeman Hall, an aspiring screenwriter who sets out to realize his Hollywood dream, but instead plunges into the seventh circle of Retail Hell when the rent comes due, selling animal-hide Hobos and overpriced clutches to Lookie-Loos and Picky Bitches—but always with a sunshiny smile.

Freeman toils in the handbag (that’s handbag, NOT purse) department of the Big Fancy department store, where he sees, hears, smells (and unfortunately, feels) it all! Here, he provides a true—and truly shockin...more
Katie Smith
I really wanted to love this book because I love inside stories of people behaving badly. And it did begin well. But this book is somewhat of a one trick pony. Many of the stories are just repetitions of each other. The funnier moments are really funny, but I think you'll find yourself skimming through a considerable portion of the book. Also, the language is a bit blue.
Laura
I stopped reading and skimmed the rest. I love these sorts of snarky memoirs, and yet couldn't enjoy this because I never got to enjoy the narrator. The stories/chapters/tales were disjointed, this is one case where I think translating blog material into a book did not provide a cohesive story. At no point did I really care what happened to the narrator, I simply wanted him to stop whining.

There are plenty of other "jobs in retail suck" blogs and books that are more worth the time. I think I wan...more
Karen
I enjoyed this memoir of a gay male handbag salesperson more at the start than at the end. At a certain point, it started to feel repetitive and mean rather than entertaining and funny. I could have done without the fantasy screenplay sections; maybe one would have been fine, but the subsequent times things faded to white, I was bored. The Kindle edition has a fair few typos that might be format conversion artifacts, like words smushed together and mid-line hyphens where none are called for.
Birgit
I used to work in retail too, so I know what's it like to be on the "other side". While I never came around to writing down some witty anecdotes myself, Freeman Hall - wanna-be screenplay writer - decided to write a whole book on his experiences. And what experiences they were. While some episodes make you laugh out loud, others will make you question the minds of certain people aka customers.
This book is taking a funny and bitting look at our love of retailing and spending (!). While the style...more
Jennifer
So true. Every retail minion will recognize characters and situations hilariously recounted by Freeman. This honest (names have been changed) account of life shopping and working retail literally made me laugh out loud with nearly every chapter. Warning: This book is rife with bad language. Unless you work in a religious bookstore/lifestyle store, you've heard it all before on a daily basis.
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Lives in Los Angeles, California"
More about Freeman Hall...
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