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Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail

2.6  ·  Rating details ·  613 Ratings  ·  175 Reviews
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 m
ebook, 240 pages
Published April 1st 2011 by Portfolio (first published March 19th 2011)
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Community Reviews

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Rating details
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May 17, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfictions
sniff - oh, the memories. be kind to your retail workers this season, my fellow holiday shoppers...

aww caitlin kelly, you lookin' for some sympathy?? i got your sympathy right here: boo freaking hoo.

here's the lowdown: ms. kelly was a journalist. the economy tanked. she lost her position. so she got a part-time job working retail. it was harder than she thought it would be. so she wrote a book about how hard it is to work retail and how underappreciated companies make their sales associates fee
Aug 24, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stunt-journalism
"I'd never worn a name tag at work, only at conferences where I was an honored speaker whose words were taped and sold..."

I don't think it's possible to have a more clueless sense of entitlement. The premise is similar to Nickel and Dimed, where the author works in a low-paying job and talks about what she learns (my god! service industry work is actually hard! my coworkers are actual human beings! people are mean to us!), but Caitlin Kelly is just so profoundly fucking annoying. She worked one
Jun 30, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oh, poor Caitlin Kelly, I feel for for, oh not wait, I don't! Your book was utter drivel to be honest. English isn't my native language, so a few years ago I would have blamed myself for not getting your aweful jokes and your style of writing.

Caitlin Kelly work in journalism for many years, until the economy tanked and she lost her job. So, she had to resort to working with the common man, in a department store. She started off with a back-breaking two shifts per week and had to cut down to one
May 04, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Man, I've been on a bad book streak lately. From the reviews, I thought this would be a sort of "Nickel and Dimed," a sharp and witty look at what it's like to slave behind the retail counter. But no! The author whines nonstop about her less educated, less white coworkers and managers (she mentions about a dozen times that she's not used to people with tattoos who live in places like Yonkers! and Harlem! Eeeeeugh!) and about the dreadfulness of menial labor, and lousy hour-long lunch breaks and, ...more
Aug 09, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am appalled by the amount of time I spent waiting to rent this book from my library. I only made it through the first two chapters before I had to put this down in absolute disgust. First of all, let's start with some clarification. If you consciously decide to get a specific job, search for and apply to said job, that is not in fact "unintentional." That is "on purpose." Ok, so moving on, what was the catalyst that prompted Kelly to seek out employment in retail? Children to feed? Can't make ...more
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was pretty disappointed in this book since I expected it to be like an updated version of Barbara Ehrenreich's classic "Nickel and Dimed." While there are some similarities to "N & D," "Malled" is really just a long rant by a privileged, educated (yet ignorant), and somewhat snobbish (and racist) woman who worked a whopping one or two shifts a week at a store in a New York City suburb. Yes, retail jobs suck and the pay is abysmal. However, the author -- unlike her co-workers -- wasn't tryi ...more
Dec 05, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book made me a little crazy. There's so much classist, elitist, privileged baggage here that I was hard pressed to find the point of the book. Kelly, a journalist by trade, worked in retail for two years, five hours a WEEK and claims she was doing it so as to make ends meet, at $11/hr while living in New York, traveling to France & Toronto, owning a car. I call shenanigans on that- I believe she was in it for the book.

Kelly comes off as a privileged special snowflake without any
Kate Eidam
I thoroughly enjoy biographies. I love to get inside a person’s head and hear their life, their observations, the nuances, the challenges in their voice. I have to say, though, that this time I was anxious to finish this book and get the author our of my head.

I heard part of author Caitlin Kelly’s NPR interview last week and was intrigued by the idea of the book: displaced professional take a retail job to help make ends meet. As the economy continues to t
Jun 07, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir, 2011
I think a lot people picking up this book are going to be those who have worked or are working in retail. They will likely be disappointed. Even her tales of bad customers, which anyone who's worked in a service-based job will be happy to commiserate with, fall short. As someone who has worked in amusement parks as a teen, major retail post-college and now in a public library, I was not impressed with Kelly's "woe is me, I work five hours a week, customers are nuts" whining. She's repetitive (ye ...more
Apr 07, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: galley, memoirs
This could have been a much better book with one small change: if it was written by someone else. Caitin Kelly's brief stint in retail should not qualify her for the amount of whining that she does in this book. She worked a couple of shifts a week in an upscale shopping center at a higher end sportswear store. Give me a book written by the 40/hr. a week night cashier at Wal-Mart, please. That person can whine to me. Not Caitlyn Kelly.
Margaret Sankey
While I am always interested in the inside working of businesses, this is a relentlessly obnoxious book from a woman who worked at North Face for two years after being laid off from journalism. She never once let anyone forget she was slumming, and had the option to leave when she finally got tired of the abuse and the treatment of low-wage customer service workers.
Like working a shift with an older lady who tells you Every Night that she's really a Canadian freelancer for the New York Times and she only works retail to get out of the house.
May 09, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
Yowza. This book was such a piece of garbage and made me so angry and annoyed I stopped less than a quarter of the way in. After flipping through the rest of the book, I saw that I didn't miss anything and didn't waste any time returning this book to someone who borrowed it from someone who got it for free. I was hoping for a fun read, as I also left the corporate world for retail. However, what I found an overwhelmingly racist, classist, obnoxious, and sad woman who repeatedly lets the reader k ...more
Jun 29, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book to read if you enjoy vapid, egotistical musings from someone who has no idea what it's like to live in the real world. I actually threw the book across the room when I got to the part about how she had never worked with people who didn't have their Masters, and *GASP* she learned she might be working with felons! Caitlin Kelly lives in a privileged fantasy land. She wrote a book based off of the ten hours a week she worked retail? For someone who claims to be a journalist, t ...more
Mar 29, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This totally happened to me too. Except I was never a journalist and I chose retail as my career....
Jaclyn Day
This could have been amazing book, but it wasn’t even close. There have been fabulous books before about the plight of the lower or lower middle class worker (like this one—please read it) and I think that’s exactly why Kelly wrote Malled.

What’s amusing is that the very title of the book—my unintentional career in retail—is the first and most glaring of the many contradictions that start to show themselves as the book progresses. After Kelly was laid off from her job as a journalist at the New
Logan Hughes
This book wants to be the Orange Is the New Black of the retail industry, and I think there is room for a such a book: while retail isn't as bad as prison, obviously, it is another milieu where things have reached a critical mass of hopelessness; where people are degraded and dehumanized; and where the poor and minorities are overly victimized, but the once-privileged are more likely than ever to find themselves. But Kelly is not as convincing a hero as Piper Kerman. Because her foray into the w ...more
May 05, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
In this memoir, a fifty-something journalist recounts her experiences in part-time retail work. Caitlin Kelly, having recently lost a steady job writing, turns to hourly work in a new North Face store. After landing the job and going through training, Kelly begins her “career” as a retail associate, although her time in the job really only lasts a couple of years (hardly a career). She describes the feeling of being a part of a cog in the machine of corporate owned and run business, of being a f ...more
May 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a retail veteran myself, I found this book to be quite insightful when it comes to the good and bad side of retail. This is the account of a successful journalist who had to enter the workforce as a retail clerk at The North Face in a mall located in an affluent New York suburb. She describes the typical norm when it comes to the environment of a retail store; the impending doom that corporate offices play into a store whether their store location is successful or not; the sad reality of the ...more
Jun 01, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
After hearing an interview with the author on NPR I was really looking forward to reading this book. Instead I thought this book was a poor excuse for a non fiction account of the retail world. I do work in the service industry and I have a really hard time feeling sorry for the author ( who CONSTANTLY complains about her sore feet etc) when she only worked 5hours a day once a week! I was hoping for greater insight concerning the huge percentage of our population who are in retail or the service ...more
Kelsey Miller
Mar 22, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe how ANGRY this book made me. At first glance, the reader is led to believe it will be a thoughtful and insightful examination of the "retail culture" and the day-to-day workforce that keeps it thriving. What we got, instead is a soulless attempt by the author to justify "demeaning herself" for a paltry one day a week at a "mindless" "trained monkey could do it" retail job.

While she laments that America doesn't value the position of sales associate the way other cultures do, in he
Cynthia Dunn
Jun 28, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one.
Shelves: memoir-bio
Awful. Her career in retail? She hardly worked. She's so obnoxious that you just want to smack her. I can't believe that she found a publisher for this tripe.
Nov 20, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: don't recommend
Shelves: dont-recommend
First of all, a little over two years, at 5-7 hours a week(!), in one line of work hardly makes it your career.
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word...

I found the author very whiny, arrogant, and lacking a sense of humor. She reminded the reader at every turn that she had come from a rich family, was college-educated, and found it hard to relate to those not raised at her level of society and education.

Example: "I was the only Caucasian [on the store team]. That was a first."
hick: I don't care if you're black, yellow, or normal.

"I'd never spent time, socially or professionally, with anyo
Blythe Barnhill
I was drawn to this because it neatly encompasses two sides of my life - that of a writer/book reviewer, and that of a full-time retail employee. For the most part, I enjoyed it, and there were some things that I learned (the almost absurd retail obsession with how long tasks should take you=taylorism). I could also sympathize with her feelings that the higher-ups just don't care about the cogs in the machine. I'm closing in on a decade of working retail, so I've been there.

Other reviewers have
Mar 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, mymap
Advanced, unedited galley from

Caitlin Kelly takes a job at The North Face in need of some sort of steady paycheck when writings jobs drop off around the time the recession. She first enjoys working retail but soon realizes that the environment is not the best. We experience her frustration with having too few employees, crowded storerooms, inadequate lighting and equipment all while trying to provide the best service. Letting us peek into (or relive) an environment that can make e
Nicole Vaiana
Mar 09, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The author, recently laid off from her journalism gig, went to the lowest depths of hell to share with us her "unintentional" "career" in retail.

Except it seems that she intentionally took this job since she needed something to write about, being laid off from her job and all. And her retail career lasted two years, twice a week at most, sixteen hours a week at most, lest this lowly poison interfere with your beloved writing. And this "retail" position was for the North Face the upper class sub
Apr 18, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Terrible book, worse human being.
She is casually racist throughout, and quits in a huff when they refuse to promote her to management. Despite having no retail mgmt experience, only working Sundays, and picking a fight to bring a chair behind the cash register for her to sit on. A chair. She wanted a chair. On the sales floor. Entitled and privileged barely even scratch the surface of this person. Read it if you want insight into what your casually racist middle aged white aunt thinks, otherwise
Matt Asher
May 19, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Painfully repetitive, fluffed-up 3000 word essay extended to a slim book. Upper-middle class woman works (briefly) in retail for 1 day a week, punishes all future readers for as long as this is in print.
Jul 26, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Apr 22, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, women-authors
This book wasn't exactly what I was expecting. I actually had thought it was likely to be like a stunt memoir where someone normally does something crazy for a year, although working retail is far from crazy. But I still thought it would mostly be stories about crazy customers, slightly nutty coworkers, and cold corporate bosses. While I did get the last one, the first two were sadly lacking. But let me back up.

In late 2007 Caitlin is a fifty-year-old well-respected journalist who recently was f
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