Where Honesty Never Ends.
Note: This title was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Greetings! The Review Board here with our take on The Retail by Joshua Danker-Dake. First, making his debut to The Review Board, Frederick Crook!
The story’s protagonist is a writer by the name of Penn Reynard. The story takes place over the character’s time spent working for “House Station”, a large hardware and building supply retailer. Penn’s days are spent behind the “Returns” counter, dealing with waves of strange customer requests and bantering with his friend, Pete and his other co-workers. The story is written in a log entry style rather than chapters and the reader is quickly drawn into this man’s struggles between his dream of writing and publishing a book and having to suffer the daily indignities of his job.
I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. This has been done before and is quite reminiscent of stories like “Empire Records”, “Clerks” and “Mallrats”.
These very scenarios came to mind quite early on in my reading and I came to expect a humorous but “tread upon” story line. I expected catch phrases that would get tiring page after page and antics that would make me question the character’s integrity and believability.
But that didn’t happen.
There were no repetitive tag lines, no tired angles and no character-destroying acts of ridiculousness to make the reader dread the remaining pages. There is humor in every day listed throughout the book, with the possible exception of a couple of entries that were summed up in two sentences, the second of which was: “I called in.” They simply serve to punctuate the character’s depressed state.
Penn is an endearing character that anyone who has ever been employed in the retail industry will adhere to and anyone who has not (points to self) will generate sympathy for anyway. He is depicted as a tall, somewhat lanky fellow whose capacity for thought and creativity is strangled by the corporate entity that employs him. He has nicknames for an annoying co-worker and his repeat customers, such as “Landfill”, and “James Earl Jones with a Perm”. He is kind toward animals and is a cat lover.
His friend “Angry” Pete is the big mouth of the store, a close friend of Penn’s and someone who suffers from emotional outbursts which manifest themselves in the form of orations derived from the over-analysis of the mundane facts of life. He is a kind of cross between Abed from the television show, “Community” and the character of Randall Graves of the Kevin Smith movie, “Clerks”.
Yes, he is a bit annoying, but he has many, many valid points in every rant and helped to carry the story along well. His appearances never derailed the scenes and he compliments the main character very well.
I’m completely serious. The ancillary characters come and go like co-workers do in reality, which adds credibility to the story. Penn’s roommate, Jeff, is affable and kind hearted and the love interest, Chloe, comes off as quite sweet and understanding. Chloe also works at the “Home Station” in the paints department.
The writing is very well done. Danker-Dake’s story flows without flaw in a stream of well-structured thoughts and scenes, punctuated by the absurdities that highlight Penn’s days. There are no little typos or formatting errors to disrupt the reader. It’s a smooth ride from start to finish. The only things I think are in short supply are the physical descriptions of the characters. Pete is described as thin, with a long nose and unkempt hair, but you won’t find much detail on the other characters, even those of Penn himself. These little details help the reader “see” who they’re reading, but here, it’s left up to us. Perhaps that was to give the reader a sense of lost identity, but I found it strange.
Also, the ending is flat and sudden. I will not be a spoiler here, but the last entry came up and smacked me in the face. On the positive side, it left me wanting more, but on the other hand, I had question without answers. The book ends as it begins, in log entry style, you simply run out of days to read about.
Overall, “The Retail” is very worthy of a reader’s time. If one is looking for an enjoyable, humorous, young adult read, this will fit nicely. I give it 9 out of 10 stars, accounting for the tiny issues that I discovered along the way.
What am impressive debut Fred! Now we turn the floor over to Mr. Controversy!
Penn Reynard is our first person narrator and protagonist in Joshua Danker-Dake’s “The Retail.”
Penn works for The House Station, located in the sleepy suburban town of Leetown, Missouri: a place that is possibly a tiny speck of dirt on a United States map with a miniature golf course and an IHOP as points of interest. The House Station is the third largest home improvement chain in the USA (as far as this story: The Home Depot and Lowe’s are mentioned. A LOT). Penn is also an up and coming romance novel writer with an English Degree: KIND OF.
Citing how he missed six (he says five) badminton classes, he failed Physical Education class (DESPITE taking The Walk across the Graduation Stage on his Big Day) and needs to make it up: by returning to Kerry Lee University (KLU for short) to make up for lost time.
Sucks to be him, for he should have had his ass in class.
Let this be a lesson to you all: if you are THAT CLOSE to Graduating, DO NOT SCREW IT UP FOR ANY REASON! TAKE THOSE PHYSICAL EDUCATION CLASSES! Exercise is NOT the worst thing on the damn planet!
*ahem!* Back to the story…
Penn is surrounded by AT LEAST 8 interesting characters at The House Station: Kord, Rex, Landfield (Landfill is what he is called), Atwater, Paige, Superman (his actual name is Bhagwandas Sivasupiramaniam), his love interest Chloe, his roommate Jeff, Jeff’s girlfriend’s cousin Rapture Joe, and Angry Pete. There is one recurring customer in the story: “James Earl Jones with a Perm.”
Misadventures occur and ensue inside and outside of The House Station to where scenarios are explained in such a way where not only are they reflective, they are teachable as they give the “outside looking in” feel to those who NEVER worked a retail position of any kind in their lives (whether it is clothing, electronics, food, etc.). We get tired, we are moody, we have things towards which we aspire. Sadly, Life’s Deck of Cards dealt us (those who worked retail) a pair of 2’s while others held a better hand either by circumstance, dumb luck (emphasis on dumb), or well-placed decisions.
All in all, this is a story about life post high school as well as during collegiate education. This is about how Life does not turn out the way you want it to turn. At the same time, Life needs to traverse in this direction to where you have not only a greater appreciation for what you do and do not have, you will know what is and is not best for you in the realm of career paths (that is the takeaway for me, anyway: we all had a decision AND an employer that we did not enjoy, yet we learned a lot and met different personalities even more).
While reading this story, I cannot help but to reflect on the MANY scenarios that occurred while working at my previous retail employer (those who know me know with whom I was employed). Guess what, Ladies and Gentlemen?
THEY BULLSHITTED US!!!
Specifically, the whole “we return anything: including spare tires” is B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T!!! Reading this book confirmed that this particular ideal is bullshit, and I would not be surprised if this was STILL being told to employees! I actually researched the “return the tire” story, and IT IS bullshit! What’s more, the imaginary Brass Ring (a story STILL used by many employers, most famously World Wrestling Entertainment AKA WWE) is the bullshittiest story OF ALL TIME!
Not only that, the pay started off as SLIGHTLY above minimum wage (back in 1998, it was $5.15/hour, while I netted a whopping $6.50 from the jump), and the hours S-U-C-K-E-D! You all try closing a store ONLY to discover that you are opening the next day: try doing that shit for 8 damn years while making ends meet!
I apologize, Ladies and Gentlemen: meltdowns are a bitch. I see why Ms. No Labels call me Angry Pete (rightfully so)…
That’s why I have a desk job now: I cannot, I REFUSE to do retail ever again for the rest of my life.
I can recount and recall the number of times that I worked registers, worked stock, worked the floors, engage customers, diffused explosive situations, called other stores for particular items, open the store, closed the store, saw people hired, saw people fired, saw people quit, eyeballed suspicious customers, stopped shoplifting, saw merchandise walk out in duffel bags, nearly witness CHILDREN try to pry open security tags for their mother’s/grandmother’s “five finger discount,” listened to bullshit stories about how people have “pockets full of money” while getting reigned in by Loss Prevention, sit WITH Loss Prevention while local authorities haul thieves away in handcuffs, offer advice to my coworkers, saw coworkers get involved and ULTIMATELY tie the knot (this duo that I have in mind are still together; was the Best Man, too!), and ONE PARTICULAR firing that involved management, a logistics worker, the dock where our shipments arrive, a security camera, and fellatio.
You want to hear this story? Sorry: reserved for close friends and blood family.
Otherwise, I got stories Ladies and Gentlemen: SAFER STORIES.
While reading, I came across this revelation provided by Penn, and it spoke volumes to me and gave me a degree of perspective that could stop a herd rampaging elephants C-O-L-D:
“Why did we always talk about leaving but never do anything? My best answer was, we’d become so accustomed to our crappy situation that we didn’t really think we’d ever get out, just like how most people think they’re not really ever actually going to die, only in reverse.”
The sad and real reality of this statement is simple: for many, this is the God Honest Truth. People settle with what is on their plate. When you eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich everyday, three times a days, day in and day out, you get sick of eating that sandwich. At the same time, that is all you can afford. The only way that the cycle of PB&J sandwiches will stop is if you make a change in your lifestyle in order to have better. This is accomplished by being and doing better (#LifeLessonForAll).
By the time I finished the book, I felt satisfied: things happen for a reason, and prepares us for a better future.
Sentences not ending in nouns and verbs has always been an issue for me. At the same time, I understand that everyone does not write in that fashion. Also, these are early twenty-somethings up to thirty to forty-somethings in “The Retail”: not everyone uses the proper syntax when speaking. For me, I can let that slide (to a point). I ran into SO MANY people who abuse syntax BEFORE I became aware of the proper utilization of syntax while working retail that this story was EXTREMELY RELATABLE.
9 out of 10 stars
“The Retail” is witty, smart, reflective, reminiscent, and funny (to me, AT LEAST). Schrödinger’s Cat will tell you for yourself if this read is funny or not. It may even cause trauma from dredging up old memories of the torturous Hell you have endured, IF you have worked retail in the past.
Overall, I Highly Recommend “The Retail”: specifically to the Young Adults. You all can learn a lot from this book. I cannot guarantee that you’ll be smarter from reading this story, yet I can say that you will be a bit more informed by peering into this hardware lined sawdust covered window.
Thanks for your candid thoughts, Mr. Controversy. Now, Unleashed One, you have the floor.
I don’t have a whole lot to add because the male board members have covered a lot of what I wanted to say. Therefore some of this may be a slight repetition or in addition to what has already been said.
First, I’d like to state some things which didn’t garner the full 10 stars for me:
(1) Although Angry Pete is one of my favorite characters, I thought with some parts, the tirades were a bit too long.
(2) The ending did not match the fire or pizzazz of the beginning or the middle of the book. It felt a bit forced, almost as if the author wasn’t quite sure how to close the work out.
(3) There were formatting opportunities in the .mobi version of the file I had, mainly excessive spacing in dialogue, parts where one or two words were left on lines by themselves. Something like this:
“The customer is not always
All of that aside, what an incredible read! Being on both the customer service representative side as well as the management side of retail, the conflict and events were very believable. The part concerning the return policy definitely reminded me of my times when I worked behind the service desk, processing returns. Each terminology used took me back to different times. Some, where I was pleased that I was able to help out the customer. Others, where I wanted to do anything but “smile and nod” and wanted just to crawl under the bed covers or serve myself a stiff drink.
Penn, Angry Pete and Chloe were my favorite characters. Their own takes on their job reflect the reality of the modern day worker. Penn is in a situation where he wants to achieve more but is in this all familiar cycle: If you want a better job, then you should get a better degree. In order to get a better degree, you have to have money for your education.
This book reads like a day-to-day, giving us a peek at how each person, especially Penn, is faring.
The tirades of Angry Pete resonate with a lot of good points, although, at times, he came across as annoying. Maybe so, yet there was something about the wisdom that you just had to nod and respect.
Chloe’s gusto and optimism is infectious and she is the perfect offset to Penn. I find myself cheering for the couple’s survival and Penn’s writing endeavors paying off as the story came to a close.
Unleashed Verdict: 8.5 out of 10 Stars
“The Retail” is a book I highly recommend for its true to life scenarios, hard hit reflections, and the doses of humor in the pages.
Now let’s take all of the number and divide by 3.
Overall “The Retail” gets 8.8, rounded up to 9 TRB Stars.
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