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Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail Hardcover – April 14, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kelly's debut book reveals the thankless job of a tireless retailer in a very personal way, after becoming one of the legions of low-wage workers persuading customers to buy marked-up goods. She worked for two years and three months as a retail sales associate for North Face, an upscale outdoor wear maker, after leaving her chaotic journalist career when "unwanted drama" as a reporter at the Daily News convinced her to seek solace in a mindless retail job. At age 50 and adrift careerwise, Kelly thought the retail position would be a cinch, until it became a punishing tangle of long hours, erratic shifts, rude customers, excessive workloads, and insensitive bosses. It's a stretch when she compares the horrible plight of Chinese and Asian workers to herself and her crew; their overworked, underpaid American counterparts definitely fare better. Burned out, bored, and physically deteriorating, Kelly quit the store before she reached the boiling point. While Kelly's tone is slightly whiney, she does offer an intriguing look into the retail business.(Apr.)
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"After losing her job as a journalist in 2006, Kelly, middle-agedand mid-career, went to work as a part-time salesassociate in a suburban mall. This is a clear-eyedaccount of the often thankless world of Americanretail: the low pay, physical demands and corporatebureaucracy."
-- The New York Times, paperback row

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio; 1 edition (April 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591843804
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591843801
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,476,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


My books both explore national issues of ongoing importance -- women and gun use, and the retail industry, which employs 15 million Americans and is the largest source of new jobs.

I wrote "Blown Away: American Women and Guns" to explore why firearms, from the founding of the United States to today, remain such an essential element of American identity for so many people -- 30 percent of American homes contain a gun. I don't own one, but wanted to understand and explain why so many women do, and why some others would never make that choice. The book is fair and balanced, a first on that topic in this respect.

"Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail" examines in detail the enormous retail industry we're all part of -- we all shop! I took a part-time job at a suburban New York mall in September 2007 to add income to my freelance writing work (for The New York Times, More, Marie-Claire and many others.)

But, 27 months later, I quit to write "Malled", which discusses this powerful $4 trillion industry in lively, personal detail. There's no book just like it.

My goal in "Malled" is to make clear(er) what working in retail means, to employees, shoppers, investors in that industry and to managers whose job it is to hire, manage and motivate workers, even for extremely low wages under difficult conditions.

Both books are down to earth and easy to read, full of original interviews with interesting people nationwide and lots of surprising information. (Like: Why don't malls use acoustical ceiling tile?)

You'll find terrific reviews -- from People, USA Today and Entertainment Weekly -- and sample chapters at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 77 people found the following review helpful By V. Bolling on April 23, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was expecting so much more from this book. Kelly is a very good writer but I was disappointed by her experience. One shift a week and some extra holiday shifts doesn't really make for a true experience. She describes what it's like to work retail but she doesn't truly have to survive on a retail salary so I felt like some "meat" was missing from this book.
I felt like Kelly also went out of her way to show how much she was "not these people" with many, many references to her social status, travel experience and education. This is more the stuff of a long article than a book.Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in Americais a much better book.
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51 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Retailer on May 16, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
As a person who has made retail a career, I must say that the author has never walked a full mile in a retailer's shoes. I am amazed at her trivial complaints and woe's over what many would see as a lucky break. I realize that schlepping stock from a back room must be a real low point for some one so prestigious as the author, who was quick to remind us that she interviewed the Queen of England ( actually she pointed this out on more than one occasion). It's too bad that this book was more about her self absorbed entitlement, and less about the countless thousands who feel proud to call retail a vocation.
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51 of 58 people found the following review helpful By imanage on April 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
After 17 years in retail I was hoping to find an entertaining read from someone who had something of value to share, especially given all the national press this book has gotten. Wow, I could not have been more disappointed. I am wondering what ego drives Ms. Kelly to think the world wants a play-by-play recap of how she soured to her little 'experiment' in retail, like this is some great revalation she is sharing with us? And then to ask for $26 for a hard cover version of it when one of the great themes she seems to beat on is how hard it is to make a go of it as a retail employee? Granted, if her portrayals are accurate, she picked a poor store to work at, and then realized it too late - but I get the sense that the author, however well traveled, educated, and successful she had been as a journalist, had never seen or imagined that this side of the coin of life actually existed, and was put back on her heels when she saw what most people in the world already know is out there. She just ends up coming across as whiney, pompous, and insecure.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
When Barbara Ehrenreich set out to write about the lives of people trying to make ends meet on the minimum wage, she lived the story that she ended up telling in Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America and the book was about that experience, not about how smart or how qualified she was, how interesting her previous life and experiences had been, etc. The result was a fascinating and gripping narrative that told important truths about the retail workers and the struggle they face, told from the front lines in the first person. We, the readers, KNEW Ehrenreich was smart and savvy because she showed us so, in the story she chose to tell and the way she reported and wrote it.

That's a lesson Caitlin Kelly would have done well to learn before setting out on her own mini-adventure in working for a mall retailer. Had she approached either the experience or this book more thoughtfully, the result might have been less utterly irritating and frustrating for this reader. I started off with a great deal of empathy for Kelly -- I'm a freelance journalist, with an uncannily similar background. But by the time she mentioned for the umpteenth time her meeting with the Queen of England and how she loved to surprise customers by dropping into "fluent French", I didn't want anyone lumping us together as two of a kind. Because Kelly ends up undermining the important issues she could have raised by the way she tells the story, with her self-congratulation merely the most evident part of this. (Had I heard once more about how many countries she had traveled too, I would have flung my Kindle across the room.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By bridget. on May 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Caitlin Kelly has no idea what it is to work in retail.

Working one day a week, for just over two years, in a high-end store, in one of New York's most upscale malls is not "experiencing what it's like on the other side of the cash wrap". At best, what Kelly experienced was an extended research project to benefit her successful journalism career. Yet, she continously writes about the difficulty of being on your feet for such long hours (again, for one shift per week) and how dreadful her pay is for the work she puts in ($11/hour - more than I've ever made at any retail job with 12 years of experience).

However the most disturbing aspect of this memoir is her constant mention of her co-worker's ethnicites. Kelly often makes mention of her African-American and Latino co-workers as getting the best job they could. In one disturbing section of chapter 3, she finds it necessary to talk of the store manager's assistant's personal life, letting us all know she had a baby out of wedlock. After discovering that some co-workers may have criminal records, Kelly states "I was shocked, although maybe I shouldn't have been.". No further explaination for this statement is given and one must assume the undertone is "because they were all blacks from the Bronx".

Kelly may have done well for herself in her chosen career of journalism (this book makes it clear she loves dropping the fact that she's interviewed Presidents and the Queen of England), but writing this book was a false step. The pages reek of her racial and social privledge and prove that she is still blind to it. While she wants us to believe she is now a much more enlightened consumer, the only thing we know for sure after reading this is that she'll do anything for a scoop.
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