“Malled: My Unintentional Career In Retail” — On Sale Today!


My new memoir, which tells the story of retail work in America, is out today from Portfolio. It’s been getting terrific reviews — Entertainment Weekly calls it “an excellent memoir” and Herb Schaffner, a columnist for Bnet compares it to the best-seller “Nickeled and Dimed”, calling Malled “reality journalism at its best.”

I’m thrilled by the reception it’s gotten, with interviews and reviews, so far, from USA Today, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, the Associated Press and Marie-Claire. I’ll be a guest on NPR’s Diane Rehm show, with two million listeners, on April 19; on Marketplace and on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show on April 20.

I’ve also been invited to write a guest post for the Harvard Business Review blog.

My goal in writing this book is to make retail work — and the 15 million employees who make their living doing it — better understood. We all shop! The American economy, even in a recession, relies heavily on consumer spending, but we rarely talk frankly about what that demands of those workers, many of them part-time, with no benefits, earning low wages with little chance for raises or promotions.

I worked as an associate in a suburban New York mall, with some very wealthy customers, from September 2007 to December 2009, so this is also a portrait of the deepening recession and other workers who are taking low-wage work to make ends meet. I interviewed many others, from Costco CFO Richard Galanti to consultant Paco Underhill to best-selling author and owner of five elegant clothing stores, Jack Mitchell.

Like me, like this blog, “Malled” pulls no punches. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes dark, always honest.

And, yes, there’s plenty of outrage!

Wal-Mart has so far spent $2 million fighting an OSHA order and $7,000 fine to make their stores safer during sales  — after an associate in their Long Island store was killed when shoppers stampeded over his body.

Is this really what we want for our low-wage workers?

The sad thing is that such treatment is considered normal. In 1892, F.W. Woolworth disdained the notion of paying his workers a living wage — his business model, discount goods, simply didn’t allow for it.

I hope you’ll check it out at malledthebook.com, where you can read the introduction and Chapter One free.

You’ll also find there a listing of my many upcoming readings and events, most in and around New York City and some in Toronto; I’m talking at 10:00 a.m. on May 28 on the downtown campus of my alma mater, The University of Toronto.

The book also has a Facebook fan page; I hope you’ll “like” it and spread the word! If you enjoy “Malled”, I’d love it if you’d write a review at amazon.com

And here’s a funny/spot-on flow chart on what it takes to get a book published…

22 thoughts on ““Malled: My Unintentional Career In Retail” — On Sale Today!

  1. tom medlicott

    Those radio shows are my bread and butter for both entertainment and enlightenment. I can hardly wait to hear you. I helped manage a small tennis shop in LA almost forty years ago and made $1.25 an hour. I don’t think I have ever been rude to a salesperson.

  2. I am really looking forward to reading your book especially as I have spent time working in retail and restaurants in my early career. I think seeing the public from the other side makes one a much better and certainly nicer and more tolerant person – in fact we should all swap jobs occasionally even if its for a short time. Congrats on your reviews, sound v well deserved. Off to Glasgow to shop today so my eyes will be wide open!

    1. I’m hoping anyone who has never done that sort of hard work wises up a bit! I wore out pretty quickly from snobby customers. I think everyone, especially those who need a low-wage job the least, should do it for at least a month to understand how pressured and tiring it can be.

  3. pap, I think (?) you’re in DC, where I am this weekend, because I’m doing the Diane Rehm show here on Tuesday. I have signings planned in and around NYC where I live, but none elsewhere for now. I did see my book today (!) at the Union Station Barnes and Noble. That was cool!

  4. WOW! CONGRATULATIONS Caitlin. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to have my book be so popular.

    Some years ago I worked in a Publix deli for awhile. That was really awful. The management was bad, and many customers treated those of us behind the counter as lower class citizens.

  5. Great show today with Diane Rehm!

    I believe those companies who value their sales forces and invest in quality customer touch points will bury the competition. As consumers, we’re beginning to demand it. Congrats on your book!

    1. Thanks…it was a lot of fun, if tiring. She’s a really interesting interviewer.

      I’d love to talk to you more about these “touch points”. I also believe they are the future of successful retail and any other “customer facing” business.

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