Book review: Return to the Big Fancy by Freeman Hall

Full disclosure: I used to work retail. In fact, I spent two years as a “seasonal” employee at Kohl’s while I was in college working on my first college degree. Of course, I was stationed at the cash registers and wasn’t a salesperson paid on commission like Freeman Hall was at The Big Fancy.

For those of who haven’t read his first book, Retail Hell, here’s a quick background: Freeman Hall moved to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter, but in order to pay the bills while working on his screenplay, wound up working in the handbag (don’t call it a purse!) section at a department store referred to as The Big Fancy. There he encountered numerous customers (dubbed “custys”), a shoposaurus (who pretty much bought out most of the store on a regular basis), piggy shoppers (who made a mess and were generally disgusting) and NATS (“nasty ass thieves” who stole merchandise and returned for a tidy profit.)

In the sequel, Return to the Big Fancy: A Riotous Descent into the Depths of Customer, Corporate and Coworker Hell, Hall goes into more depth on the many ways that a large corporation can suck the will to live out their employees. Many of the customer encounters, coworker disasters (never work with a “shark”) and awful examples of the trio of head honchos dubbed the “Gestapo” at work were both hilarious and wincingly painful at the same time.

What brought this on? Well, it turns out that writing a successful screenplay and having it actually go into development are two different things. So, once again, Hall goes to work for The Big Fancy. This time his manager is nice, but most of his co-workers are painful to deal with. Between corporate forcing stupid policies on its workers, buyers who purchase the wrong merchandise for the store, and, of course, those ever-present customers, his life is made into a walking, never-ending hell of insipid phone calls, annoying training sessions and hard to reach sales goals.

Anyone who has ever worked retail will simultaneously understand where Hall is coming from and laugh hysterically at the tales within Return to the Big Fancy. And if you haven’t worked retail, hopefully it will help you put yourself in the shoes of those people ringing up your purchases the next time you go shopping.

In order to help you sympathize with retail workers everywhere, Hall has declared that Saturday, November 24th is Be Kind to Service Workers Day. Next week, November 18th through the 24th, all of The Big Fancy e-shorts will be on sale for 99 cents each (I haven’t read them yet, but I’m sure they’re just as awesome as Retail Hell and Return to the Big Fancy) and his first book, Retail Hell, will be on sale for $2.99.

Return to the Big Fancy is available now at retailers everywhere, and for more information on Freeman Hall or to air your retail drone grievances in public, please check out his blog, Retail Hell Underground.


(Disclaimer: I received a copy of Return to the Big Fancy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. And honest I am; I loved the book! For more information, please see my disclosure policy.)


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