Kate Woods Walker's Reviews > Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail

Malled by Caitlin Kelly
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's review
Jun 12, 2011

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Read in June, 2011

Once past the opening one-third of Malled, I transcended my admittedly classist disdain for what I thought would be another fish-out-of-water tale much like Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed. I came to appreciate Caitlin Kelly's straightforward reporting on corporate policies that view suffering employees as no more important than floor tile. But I had to get to the solid facts piled up in Chapter Nine before I actually began to warm to the book.

Prior to that, it was just another tale of someone from the upper middle class forced by harsh fate to work in the demoralizing, inhuman trenches of the American economy. Down here with the vast majority of us. But hey, if it takes one, two or 100 formerly privileged white women writing books to wake people up to the evil that is our current economic system, then so be it.

Kelly is an ex-newspaperwoman who got herself a mall job selling high-end speciality clothing and doo-dads. And she lasted over two years at it.

Unlike Ehrenreich, Kelly wasn't on a self-imposed undercover operation to find out how the lower classes survive. She needed the money. So we as readers are taken on a tour of Kelly's real-life gripes about corporate dumbasses, barely-restrained rants about autocratic midlevel workers, and surprisingly good-humored recaps of encounters with customers from Hell. There's a fair bit self-aggrandizement (she has a "playful sense of humor" and she's met the Queen of England, she wants you to know), and the book could have used a few, humanizing episodes early on to make the author a more sympathetic "character."

As reporting, it's a good book. As lighthearded memoir (which is what the cover and blurbs seemed to imply), not so much. But a solid three stars for sure.

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