Book Reviews

Retail Hell: How I Sold My Soul to the Store – Confessions of a Tortured Sales Associate by Freeman Hall | Book Review

Retail Hell: How I Sold My Soul to the Store – Confessions of a Tortured Sales Associate by Freeman Hall | Book Review Retail Hell: How I Sold My Soul to the Store-Confessions of a Tortured Sales Associate by Freeman Hall by Freeman Hall
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Original Publication Date: 2009
Source: I purchased this book
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Find the Author: Blog, Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon
four-stars

This is a place Freeman Hall, a twenty-year veteran “on the floor,” knows well. While delivering side-splitting stories alongside brutally cynical commentary, Freeman recounts his most shocking experiences in Retail Hell. From the time he was attacked by a customer’s four-year-old, who grabbed onto his leg like a poodle and wouldn’t let go, to the day he found the fitting room walls covered in s**t, Freeman has seen and heard (smelled and felt) it all! Horrifying and hilarious, this behind-the-scenes look at what really goes on at the Big Fancy Stores is rollicking, ready-to-wear wisdom for readers

Retail Hell: How I Sold My Soul to the Store-Confessions of a Tortured Sales Associate by Freeman Hall is one of the funniest books I have read in a long time.

The Big Fancy

Hall worked at “The Big Fancy” (apparently Nordstrom’s) for many years and has a dead-on talent for skewering the pretensions of managers and the obnoxiousness of high-end customers. I admit that if I hadn’t worked in retail I might not get the humor — customers defecating in fitting rooms and insane store managers — but it’s so true!

He appropriately calls his store manager Suzy Satan:

I call her Suzy Satan because she rules The Big Fancy Underworld like a Disney witch on Ecstasy.

She tells them all about success in retail:

The Sun of Success is our most prized and cherished philosophy. Each one of you has the ability to be a beautiful, radiating sun at this store, full of tremendous warm and light. When you excel at what you do, you grow brighter, and all of those around you shine even more. The rays of your bright shing life affect everything!

Hall was quite probably the first man to sell handbags in Los Angeles. He sells extremely expensive luxury handbags selling for thousands of dollars. Yes — it’s handbags, never purses. Never call them handbags.

He lovingly details the phoniness of management — how they pretend to love salespeople but really despise them.

A sign at the employee entrance reads: THROUGH THESE DOORS WALK THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN OUR COMPANY — but this sign appears after employees must climb the EIGHT flights of stairs just to reach the employee entrance before beginning a full day of work.

Retail Management Hell

Hall also describes “morning rallies” (that’s what the morning meetings are called) and he is spot-on accurate. His department manager/cheerleader also will give her own personal pep talks to her staff:

I’m holding this meeting because we have a lot to work on here, people. We missed our month twice in a row. There was a 22% decrease in January, a 13% decrease last month. You know how Suzy feels about third strikes. I absolutely cannot allow this department to miss another month. The unemployment rate in Los Angeles is at an all-time high, and I’m sure I can find plenty of hungry people to sell handbags and get me increases.”

Here is the author discussing how to survive the Christmas shopping season:

Final Analysis

I was literally shouting with laughter as I read some of this book because it is so true.

His accounts of his initial orientation (training), when a manager showed a drawing of the sun to the new recruits, contain such heartwarming phrases as “You are the center of the sun. How bright you shine affects everything.”

Now be warned: Hall can be snarky about the customers and management, and his language is quite harsh — if you don’t like cursing, you might be offended. I admit that I really was tired of the excessively graphic language and felt that much of it was unnecessary.

You can read Freeman Hall’s blog at Retail Hell Underground.

Please read my stories of working in retail in Black Friday – From the Other Side and Speaking Up is Hard to Do.

Thank you for reading The Literary Lioness!

About Freeman Hall

Freeman Hall is a retail survivor who began slaving in retail at the age of twenty at Macy’s. His most notable retail experience was with specialty clothing store Nordstrom, where he spent fifteen years as an award-winning handbag manager and salesperson.

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