After being laid off from the New York Daily News, Caitlin Kelly entered into a very different line of work. Her experiences as a sales associate at The North Face in The Westchester became fodder for her book, Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail, in which she explains how grueling (and low-paying) these jobs can be, and what the lives of sales associates are really like. Here, she tells us four things about retail that you may not realize when you’re asking someone to please bring that item to you in 15 more sizes.
1. Many retail employees don’t receive any training. Kelly reports that, due to low wages and few opportunities for advancement, 50 percent of retail workers leave every three months, leading to 100-percent turnover every year—and companies often conclude that it’s not worth putting in the time and expense to train. “If you ask where something is and the associate doesn’t immediately know, it’s probably not because she’s stupid or lazy,” she says. “Now that I understand that, I try to be nicer.”
2. Retail jobs require a lot of physical stamina. “I was a nationally ranked athlete in my thirties,” Kelly says. “I skate. I ski. I run. But this was exhausting. You don’t sit down for five hours—if you’re sitting down, you’re doing it on the toilet.”
3. The pay is often low. “I made more money as a lifeguard as a teenager.”
4. Working retail can be a lot of fun. “I got paid to make people happy—what’s not to like about that? I got to be the better part of me.”
Malled will be in stores on April 14. For more information, visit malledthebook.com.