Book Review: Punching In by Alex Frankel

The author of this book has previously written for Wired and The New York Times. When I received this book as an advance copy, I was thrilled at the chance to read it. I spent nearly a decade in the customer service trenches, as a manager of a fast food restaurant. And although Frankel steered clear of such low-wage jobs as those, I was still excited to see a learned interpretation of the life that many Americans lead.

Punching In CoverFor the past six years, I’ve been a member of corporate America and I have been offered a glass of the ‘company Kool-Aid’ many times in my career. I don’t see myself as a gullible person. I am a cynic, and therefore I was intrigued by the thought that someone had actually researched how companies reach out and turn their employees into dedicated converts.

I must admit that the glimpse into the different worlds was interesting, and I could tell from Frankel’s writing that he had overall enjoyed his foray into the behind-the-counter aspect of commerce. However, there was an overlay upon some points in the retelling of the author’s experiences that smelled patronizing to me.

In this book, Frankel has bared the backbone of our country: the customer service employees who are nearly overlooked in their unobtrusiveness every single day of the year. These are the people that get the small but important things done. They deserve more reverence than to be reduced to some high school science experiment. I’m willing to believe I’m being overly sensitive on that point, however, so I’ll let it go.

Overall, the narrative was mildly interesting and the language was elegant. However, I expected more insights into the different companies than were offered in these pages. Each company philosophy was presented only briefly and then the author went on to complain of how long and hard the hours were. All I could think was, well what did he expect? It just felt like there should be more to the story than that.

Final conclusion: An enjoyable read; and I’m suitably thankful that I was chosen to review this book. If you’re in HR or corporate management, I would recommend it.

[xrr rating=1.5/5]