The New York Times sez a new comic named Retail
starts its run tomorrow, drawn by a disgruntled ex-sales clerk.
"His aim for the comic strip, which will be published beginning tomorrow, is to do for the mall what 'Dilbert' did for the office, revealing the dysfunctional world of bickering employees, spineless managers and cruel shoppers that lurks behind the cheery sales slogans... The strip's recurring theme is the always uneasy, and, at times, explosive relationship between sales clerk and consumer, who simultaneously need and despise one another."
Well, the Times may be laying it on a little thick. They play up the revenge angle pretty big. Still, is bitterness the basis for a great comic? Later in the story we read:
"The comic strip is set at a department store called Grumbel's, which the syndicate requested be in a mall in case Mr. Feuti runs out of material from a single store. It follows four stock retail characters: Marla, the unappreciated middle manager; Cooper, the smart-aleck clerk who despises customers; Val, the overqualified, sarcastic sales clerk; and Stuart, the irritable by-the-books store manager."
Underappreciated... smart-aleck... sarcastic... irritable. Fun people! (Interesting detail about the syndicate asking to have the store in a mall, though. Love that kind of background information.)
I guess it's possible that if someone had described "Dilbert" before it started running, the character descriptions would have read much the same way. And I think Dilbert is very funny.
Also, it's clear that most people's appetite for shopworker anger is greater than mine. The David Sedaris story "Santaland Diaries," recounting his hatred of being an elf at Macy's, made me cringe a lot more than laugh. My primary reaction was, "If you can't stand the job, quit the job -- don't do a bad job, take the paycheck, and then gripe about how stupid your employer is."
But "Santaland Diaries" is now regarded as a kind of Christmas classic, I find, so clearly I'm in the minority there. Still: if the strip is about how horrid the buying public is, won't the humor be coming at the expense of most readers?
On the other hand, the Times claims that one in five Americans works in retail, and that's a big audience. Actually, the Times is quoting the King Features site
for the comic, which says "In an industry that employs more than 23 million people, (approximately one in five Americans)..."
23 million people is one in five Americans? That pencils out to... 115 million citizens? Seems like a slight understatement
Well, now I'm just being picky. In the spirit of clean slates and appreciation for new ideas, I hereby say "Welcome, Retail
! Knock our socks off!