Return To The Big Fancy by Freeman Hall (4 out of 5)

Do you remember Retail Hell? I do- I’ve worked in it since I was 15. Oh wait, what??? You meant the first book by Freeman Hall?? Right, right. I know that’s what you meant. If you work in a service industry of any type, do yourself a favor and read that book. Do yourself a second favor and read this- the follow up. The blurb calls Freeman a Perez Hilton type. True, true, true. I would go a little further and throw in some Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Steve Dublanica(author of Waiter Rant, a fantastic treatise on the hell waiters go through in the restaurant industry. Yes- the worst is lousy tippers, if you didn’t see that one coming.) and you’re set.

What’s Freeman’s story? He worked as a handbag(not purse) salesperson for 15 years, and Retail Hell was his rally cry to the service industry. You read and enjoyed every salicious detail of his journey to and from the top rung of the retail ladder, with anything from insanely hoarding customers(Imagine Dianna Newman with handbags) to commission-obsessed corporate management staff to the relentlessly driven and back-stabbing co-workers. At the end of Retail Hell, Freeman gets a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go sell his screenplay. Thus the end–but oh no, it wasn’t. The bright lights, big city of the screenwriting world isn’t a success for Freeman, and his rapidly expanding debt and bills force him to swallow his pride and go back- tail between his legs- to The “Big Fancy”(the cleverly worded secret identity of one little corporate mecca known as NORDSTROM’S). He’s again selling in the handbag department, and he takes up his verbal sword, sharpens it, and heads into the thrush of bitchy, underpaid white trash customers who demand 50% off on Coach handbags(COACH!), who return more than they buy(hello bookstore, that sounds familiar. Why buy a book when you can get it on your stupid Kindle or Nook for 2.99 and screw the author out of an actual profit? OOPS. Sorry. Mini-rant there), not to mention those co-workers who will do nothing short of outright sabotage to get the job and accolades they think they deserve(every workplace has a Mata Hari, you know it’s true). Freeman’s blunt delivery of his thoughts and hilarious celebrity scenarios(the one where he’s waiting on and ultimately lusting after Hugh Jackman and Kayne West is hysterical) keep you reading the book, even when it’s often hard to do so. It was hard for me at moments because I’ve been through some of these scenarios in my career, and it’s never a fun time. Freeman Hall makes reading this a lot more bearable. The only thing that keeps me from giving it a full 5 star review is that I feel like he’s re-tread over some of the cobblestone streets the first time he drove this car. Some of his observations are similiar to the ones he voiced in book one. You know he’s going to go through it again, as it is retail, and business is cyclical. I had hoped for more new material- stories, even more insane co-workers, customers who should be banned(for instance, old biddies who argue over whether a Melissa & Doug puppet is a queen or princess depending on her “hat”,which is a CROWN, but I digress), and some startling comeuppances. There are some instances, but I feel like he left some stuff out. Having said that, I urge you to go buy this book. I have not had an easy time of shit lately, and this book made me laugh until i peed my pants. I would love to see Freeman take this further, and do a documentary(or rather, a mockumentary) of some of the shit that really goes on in this fancy schmancy department stores. I bet it would be equal parts hilarious and sickening. I do also urge you to check out RetailHellUnderground.com, his online blog and place for service industry professionals to vent. Great stuff there. He could even go on and publish some of the stuff that’s he’s got on there for his next title. Either way, do yourself a favor and check out Freeman Hall’s books. You won’t be disappointed. Laughter guaranteed. 

 

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~ by generationgbooks on March 16, 2013.

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