37. Retail Hell

How I Sold My Soul to the Store : Confessions of a Tortured Sales Associate
by Freeman Hall

If I were a writer, (which I am not) this is the book I would write when I finally left retail.  Freeman Hall details his career as a handbag salesman at Big Fancy, a chain department store in the Los Angeles area.  He moved to LA to be a screenwriter, but like most of us, took a retail job to tide him over until his real dream job came through – and got stuck there.

Because he had previous experience in selling menswear, he applied for that department.  Unfortunately, there were no openings so they placed him in the handbag (don’t call it a purse) department.  Hall became the first male handbag salesmen at that store, and at first the customers didn’t like, and neither did he.  His co-workers gave him a crash course in all things Marc Jacobs, Kate Spade, and Coach. He caught on quick and the journey began.

What follows is a hilarious account of the crazy customers, co-workers, and bosses that can ruin an otherwise smooth day in retail. I could relate with every story he told:

  • the chronic returners, who swear they never used the bag before, but have left all sorts of forgotten personal items in it.
  • the cheapskates who refuse to pay full price for anything and will try to haggle with you within an inch of their life
  • the shoplifters who take advantage of the store’s customer service policies to return, for cash, product you know they stole
  • the nasties – having explosive diarrhea in a fitting room, touching product after wiping your runny nose with your hand – I’m stopping there because I’m making myself sick.

 The book sometimes gets bogged down with Hall’s imaginary scences taking place in the store (he is an aspiring screenwriter, after all), but this by far is one of the funniest books I’ve read all year. Pick it up especially if you work in the service industry.
Oh, and Big Fancy is actually Nordstrom. 


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