If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to deliver packages for UPS, serve latte for Starbucks, or fold T-shirts for The Gap, PUNCHING IN (subtitled: The Unauthorized Adventures of a Front-line Employee) by Alex Frankel provides some answers. In his two-year quest to explore what really goes on in the workforce, Frankel tried out those three and a handful of other retail and service positions.
Much like Barbara Ehrenreich (NICKED AND DIMED) and Tracie McMillan (THE AMERICAN WAY OF EATING), who investigate the lives of the working poor by trying on their lives, Frankel describes the challenges of retail and service jobs by taking them on. However, unlike Ehrenreich and McMillan, he is less interested in the economic conditions of the workers and more interested in the attempts of corporations to shape their employees’ behavior. His approach is to “infiltrate and gain membership as a front-line worker, observing from the ground floor, not the board room.” He takes this anthropological approach in order to “witness two main things: how companies as varied as the Container Store, Home Depot, and Starbucks bring in outsiders and how I responded to those corporate cultures and their institutionalized attempts to make me conform to them.”
The results are revealing and entertaining. And, if you are looking for a job right now, this book will raise your awareness about what you might be walking into.