From Benjamin Kissell, April, 2013:

It isn't very easy being the cheerful and upbeat face of a company [copious amounts of coffee are needed], especially one whose idea of 'haute couture' rooms is the equivalent of "Now with FREE color tv" [how vintage 1960s hotel can you get?] but thankfully, sometimes I can actually achieve it.

This morning, however, I may not be able to accomplish it ... despite a mug of coffee large enough I could reenact Hot Tub Time Machine in it.

So, of course when I have the least capability to deal with stressful or bitch-tastic custys is when the queen harpy of custys decides to descend upon me.

Let's call her Hunga Queen of the Harpy Custys of Talon Mountain [if you get this reference I heart you], or just Annoying Harpy Custy for short. Reeking of desperation, weasel-ness and all-things skeevy she waddles towards me; her mottled feathers [cheap dye job and possibly cheaper weave] wavering as she approaches my desk. To wit, my snarky tongue almost got the better of me whilst dealing with her.

Almost. Well, sort of.


Annoying Harpy Custy: *flapping up to the counter* "Hey, is there anything in your log book about my room from the storms last night?"
[referencing the tornado which touched down in the area and massive thunderstorms - this Custy also has a history of false or over-stated complaints, rude remarks to staff and in general a distinct lack of control of her sticky, stinky, mildly-destructive, LOUD children] 


Me: "Yes ..." *looking in logbook* "It says that you developed a leak in your room during the intense part of the storms and that you didn't want to move rooms, is that correct?" 


Annoying Harpy Custy: *haughty look* "Well, I didn't want to as you don't have anything available on the ground floor! What am I supposed to do, carry my luggage upstairs?" *punctuating this with a hoot and a slap on the desk's counter-top*
[This is true; ground-floor SMOKING with 2 Double-beds and a pull-out couch? We only have 2 of those specific type of rooms - one of which she is in (and likely destroying).] 

: "My apologies, we may have one open today after 3pm, if you want to switch."
At this she gets a very smug and self-satisfied, cat-that-ate-the-canary (or the custy-who-thinks-she-got-one-over-on-the-company) look 


Annoying Harpy Custy: "Good." [smug, oh how smug she be] "Now, what time does Erwin come in?" [our relatively laid back AGM] 


Me: "He's not really due in today, but, if he does come in it won't be until about 3pm - what can we do for you?" [smile, Benjamin; don't show teeth. Don't show your annoyance with her ... oh my gawdd, what the sweet Retail Hell is her buzz-cut-sporting, sticky child named CHUNK climbing on?! KID THAT IS A DESKTOP COMPUTER! DO NOT CLIMB ON TOP OF THAT PRINTER! Yeah, great parenting you got going on, harpy.] "Young man, please don't climb on that." I say in a sickeningly sweet voice - if she's not gonna parent, one of us hasta. 


OCTOCAROL 251Annoying Harpy Custy: "Well, you see," she's obviously building up to something here, as she waddles and folds her wings - I mean her arms - under and cranes up her neck. "My phone got damaged last night by the rain." At this she proudly flops down her cracked-screen touch-screen phone, open and the battery removed, on my counter. "What'chu gonna do for me about this?" 


Me: *quirked eyebrow* [I can still do it, despite the knock-off botox] "Honestly ma'am, I don't think we can do very much of anything, if at all. You chose not to leave the room, despite your predicament; from how I understand it, I do not believe we're responsible for -"


Annoying Harpy Custy: "What do you mean!?!" she interrupts in an inhuman howl, calling the other guano-streaked denizens of Talon Mountain, her flitting and loudly-chirping offspring, to flock to her side. "Just because I chose not to leave - I can't lift heavy objects! - why should I be punished for this? Why are you blaming me?" Her rant is all over the board in its stream-of-consciousness-ness. "The phone company won't replace my phone for water damage!" [Now wait just a nit-picking minute here, 'Mother of the Year', I've had 3 - count 'em 3! - phones replaced by her same carrier for water damage ... I call shenanigans on this.]


Me: *dialing my GM's cell phone* "Let me ask my General Manager, then. By the way, did you try the dry rice trick? I know that I've saved 2 phones from water damage with that little home-remedy." [What can I say? I have a nasty habit of damaging phones - rarely does one last more than a year with me.] To which she replies that 'yes, she tried it and it didn't work!' [Of this I doubt, as the dry rice trick takes more than a few minutes to make any impact.] I quickly outline the situation to my GM over the phone and he reiterates the conclusion I came to, backed up by our corporate policy - We offered to move her, an employee had even offered to help physically [he be the strong bitch on-staff, all Schwarzenegger'd and shit], and she had refused. As it stands, it's out of our level's hands on what we could do for her.

To say that she didn't like this is akin to describing a volcanic eruption as 'a polite burp'.


Annoying [now Angry] Harpy Custy: >string of expletives even I find too tacky to commit to screen - thankfully, absolutely no poo is flung<


Me: "Ma'am; I promise that I'll ask Erwin if he comes in and I'll double check with the GM, as I know how not fun this is, but it's really sounding like something we can't help you with. I'm so sorry," [And I genuinely am; I loathe being without my left eye, I mean cell phone ... it's kinda essential to me. I've been known to go into a shock-like coma-esque quiet state when I don't have one ... some would say me being quiet like that isn't a bad thing.]

"If there's anything else I can do to help, I shall - I'm really terribly sorry." 


Annoying [still Angry] Harpy Custy: "Well," her clawed wing scraping the desk, "when Erwin or your GM gets in have them call me!" She turns her tail feathers, ruffled, and raises her wings to flap away when I can't help but ask - my curiosity picqued by her custy avian display ...


Me: "Just a quick question, if the window was leaking in the far corner of the room, how did your phone get damaged by it?"


Annoying [now Sputtering] Harpy Custy: *incoherent mutter* "Uhm" *incoherent mutter*          >shifty eyes back and forth<      She finishes turning back towards the door and tosses off a half-hearted "It just did" before darkening the skies of my lobby no more.





read more from Benjamin Kissell here

for more Hotel Hell go here






Retail Balls Award: Benjamin Kissell's Awesome Resignation Letter Line





We salute RHU Blogger, Benjamin Kissell with a Retail Balls Award for escaping a toxic cesspool in Hotel Hell and bravely saving himself. 

While writing his resignation letter he came up with the best line ever:


Best moment of writing a resignation letter?

Adding the line ... "It's not me, it's you"

I almost died when I did it.

--Benjamin Kissell








From Benjamin Kissell:

When you work in the customer-service or retail industries your patience, serenity and good humor are brought into question more often than Amanda Bynes' sobriety. [I'll let the brilliant timeliness of that sink in for a few ... >pause< ... has it sunk in yet?]

Despite the fact that by and far the most prevalent customers you deal with on a daily basis are apathetic at best - neither truly offal [hehe - I crack myself up sometimes] nor wonderful - it is the complete asshat f#@ktards who stand out in your memory. Think about it ... that sweet older lady who said you reminded her of her granddaughter with your cute pixie cut made you smile? Or that exhausted businessman who said you made his day when you were able to snag him an unavailable room at an over-packed hotel gave you warm fuzzies? No, it's the jackass who told you to go f#@k yourself because your coupon-rate was "still too f#@king high" who will dominate your memory of the day.

And that? Is not cool.

It's completely unfair.

And I? Am happy to share with you a few of my hints and tips for taking the sting out of it. [Without going so far as to suggest actions which would land you in a libel-suit or arrested for jamming bananas up ungrateful asshats tailpipes whilst backing away into shadows flipping the bird ala Bitch Pudding.]



Image 01It's true. And "you're so sweet" means 'you're so full of shit you're attracting flies' ... 

"Bless Your Heart"
        This classic Southern aphorism is a tried-and-true method to passive-aggressively toss a snarky remark at someone while making it seem like an almost compliment (or at least a 'not your fault'). If done correctly, you deliver the stinging barb with such accurate timing and saccharine sweetness that not only does the dickwaffle not realize he's been insulted, but he wonders if it may be a compliment.

"It's my pleasure"
        ... to help brain-dead asshats like yourself who seem to think the world revolves around you [however, you leave that last part unspoken]. Whenever you have a particularly grating customer-service situation, simply inserting this one-liner into the conversation will both possibly diffuse the custy's inherently piss-poor mood and give you brownie points (especially if they're Chik-Fil-A patrons with any regularity). [However, you lose all brownie points and go back to start when you do this with gritted teeth and a barely-contained snarl on your lips.]

"Have a Good Morning/Night/Afternoon"
        Nothing helps deflate an asshat custy quite like the perfectly delivered [with an unironical smile] 'Have a good morning/afternoon/night' as they wind down a "F#@k you and everything about your establishment" rant. Again, this only works when you smile sweetly and innocuously - do not show teeth. To boost the effecti

effectiveness of this, I've found it helps to tilt your head in a sympathetic and humble angle while delivering your best Dolores Umbridge impersonation.

Lifetime Movie it
        When in doubt, act it out ... in your head. Re-cast the 'situation-giving-you-just-shy-of-ulcer-stress' as if it were a Tori Spelling, Catherine Bell or Nicholle Tom movie-of-the-week on 90's Lifetime (television for women and gay men). Imagine that puffed-out loud-mouth with teased and larger-than-a-labradoodle fried hair, lip-liner in brown-tones, 'nude' eyeshadow and shoulder-pads the size of airport runways and your stress? Will suddenly be passe faster than Caroline in the City.

Accents. Accents. Accents
        I cannot stress how much fun it is to slip on an accent and use it as a shield between you and the insane people who populate our customer service industry - whether it is a foul-mouthed custy or dictatorial manager, hiding behind your best Scarlett O'Hara impression or Harry Potter affectation will give you a laugh while they scowl their nasty little hearts out. [WARNING: despite its ease, do not try and use the classic Cockney English accent - you'll just sound like you're auditioning for a local dinner theatre's production of My Fair Lady.]

Go home and read 1) Retail Hell 2) or 3) Retail Hell short story collections ... or a combination thereof
        I know, I know - completely self-serving, but there you go. The website is a great source of commiserating stories. The memoirs by Freeman Hall are riotously funny and all-too-familiar for anyone who works retail. The collections feature stories from people just like you (and, admittedly, a few of my stories as well).

Mr Rogers 01 
It's a lovely day in your neighborhood ...
when you can tell that jackass across the street to 'f#@k off' with the sweetest smile.


Check out Benjamin's blog Dead Lines and Bon Mots



Friday Nights with Benjamin Kissell: Stuck in 90's Fashion and Loving It



Every Friday night RHU will feature a reblog post from longtime RHU Blogger Benjmain Kissell, who has a blog of his own called, Dead Lines and Bon Mots! Benjamin also has four stories in RHU's E-book collection that took place during his days at Border's Bookstore. Although he still works in the service industry, the Friday night posts will be more about his reflections on life and different subjects.

Soon we will be adding more voices on RHU, writing about current events or topical issues. If you'd like to write a weekly editorial for RHU, let me know at my email:

This week Benjamin is caught up in his love of 90's fashion. I think we can all relate! What era of fashion is your fave?



[aka my fashion sense stalled in the 1990's and yes, I'm aware of the amount of shredded denim this implies I own]


Blog 02
Preach it Cher Horowitz: the epitome of uber cool 1990s fashion
[and by extension, what I've subscribed to ever since ...]


"Honey; it's like Dylan walking into the Peach Pit"

"Wait ... um, is that good?"

"Well, it's accurate if that's what you're asking."

This is the conversation my wonderful boyfriend fiance John and I have as we walk into our favorite 1950's retro-style Greek/American diner, Tito's. [Why yes, I realize how weird that sounds - mediterranean food AND a 1950's flair? But, it works. Trust me.] He says this not looking at anything on the walls or tvs. No, he says this whilst looking directly at me and giving me a once-over.

I'm currently sporting shredded faded jeans, kn0ck-off converse sneakers and a dark grey form-fitting t-shirt and the ubiquitous Aviator frame sunglasses - my long-sleeve plaid grey/black/pink shirt was left behind due to the sudden arrival of late spring's heat and humidity.


Despite my love of the 80's for cartoons, toys and comic books I am a 90's kid when it comes to my personal fashion.

In fact, my fashion style would best be described as an outgrowth of my surviving 1997-2000 wardrobe [you think I'm joking, but I'm not] ... including shredded jeans, plaid flannel overshirts and, of course, oversized  as well as form-fitting band/movie t-shirts. Think Nirvana crossed with No Doubt combined with Natalie Imbruglia with a Kabbalah Madonna touch [you know, for the spiritual depth and denim jackets].

If one had to hazard a guess, the movie Clueless obviously had a MASSIVE influence on me [for good or ill, you decide]. Grunge? Oversized jeans with tight-fitting t-shirts? Over-sized t-shirts with cargo pants? Shredded jeans with sweaters? Preppy chic? Clueless has it all! As a consequence of seeing the movie I wanted it all, and I wanted to fit in. I was a short and skinny kid with BIIIIIIIIIIG hair who was picked on routinely so this brilliant window onto the world of 'cool' gave me insight into how I could (possibly) stem the tide of almost daily name-calls and fisticuffs.

Blog 01



I've chosen to opt for comfort and personal style over continuously changing fashion [some would call it cheap, I prefer to think of it as cool that I can still wear many of the clothes I wore in my teens/early twenties now in my early thirties]. In an effort to 'update' I've pruned my ever-expansive wardrobe recently, donating over a third of said clothes to either GoodWill or friends [Daddy loves you, Maeghan, in his old shirts!] when I moved in with my boyfriend fiance.


Of course, this (awesome) personal style comes with a price. A label has begun to circulate amongst folks. A nickname of sorts. One which began in the mid-2000's with whispers about Aberzombies ...




Okay, you know what? I dressed like this before it was cool [and yes, I realize how Hipster that sounds ... bite me]. Even my best friend, bless Nate's heart,  has been so forward as to describe me as the "grandfather of hipsters" for YEARS because of my almost ever-present combination of thick-rimmed glasses and knitted caps . It's true, I've been so used to my ubiquitous jeans and tees with splashes of plaid that I've practically stalled my fashion development and have been in a rut long enough that it makes sense to liken me to a grandfather.


  • I don't like your music, young people [dubstep - ewww]

  • I don't like the way you just hang out in cafes and whatnot instead of getting jobs or at least going places other than the nearest wi-fi hotspot.

  • Seriously, I'm all for tattoos and holes in heads, but ... um ... mightn't you want to remember that these things can get infected and if the state of your hair is any indiction that infection is due sooner rather than later so please do me a favor and don't come near me as I'm going to assume you're Patient Zero.

  • I'm totally okay with shaking my fist - and possibly a broom or rake - at you in an effort to get you to JUST STOP LOUNGING AROUND IN THE PARKING LOT SMOKING YOUR F#@KING CLOVE CIGARETTES AND GETTING ASHES AND TRASH ON MY CAR!




And that? Is okay. I'm comfortable with this knowledge. I am self-aware. I love what I wear [HAH - admit it, that was funny ... no? Just me?]. I'm also okay with having to explain that 'No, I'm not being ironic ... I just dress this way because I found a look in 1997 - three years before you were born - and have stuck with it' to random hipsters [and Hot Topic kiddies: I shopped the house down when many of you weren't even born yet and am still wearing that indie-esque swag. Of course, most of the Hot Topic kids have crossed from emo/rock/punk wannabes to full on hipsters ... so, this side-point is moot] who look at me askance.





Blog 03
Down to the shredded jeans and busted-ass shoes ...  I've worn this exact outfit for years
(you've probably seen me in it, actually and judged me harshly when y
ou did).



To be honest, it wouldn't be the worst idea in the universe if I took a chance and probably should embrace a little change in my fashion - I could add new things to it that step outside of my comfort zone. But, unless one of you sells me out, I don't see myself ending up on What Not To Wear to make that happen.

Blog 05 
Senior year of high school (on the left) - please note how young I looked.
Also note that I still wear that olive plaid shirt (2000)


Blog 03 Blog 04 
Manho photoshoot - note the shredded jeans and tight-fitting tee (2006)

Selfie circa 2008 - PLAID is totally the new black. As are rainbow scarves and Kabbalah bracelets, apparently


Blog 06    Blog 02 
Ignore the blonde chunk of hair, instead, please note the STILL WEARING SHREDDED JEANS factor (plus a vest -

Blog 01
And how cute are we? The boyfriend fiance and I strike a pose ...
and yes, the hat, the v-neck shirt scream Hipster. Bite me.



After all, to quote my friend Brittany Scott, I've "been the height of hipster fashion since hipsters were in elementary school wearing un-ironic clothing without beards or PBR."




 CLICK HERE to check out Benjamin's blog DEAD LINES AND BON MOTS



Benjamin Kissell: Reading List Advice From When I Worked At Borders




From Benjamin Kissell:

Some have called me opinionated. Some have called me egocentric. Some have called me so full of editorializing that I have to insert witicisms into my witicisms ... side-tracking you from the original thought process so much that you stop to wonder what it is I'm really saying. [Admit it; you've thought this before, haven't you?] Friends/loved ones/family/the boyfriend fiance/random strangers on the street/internet trolls have all called me out on this narcissism.


And they would be correct.


I am opinionated. I believe I have amazing opinions - even when those opinions are only about whether the pizza I'm about to consume is fantastic or merely tasty [see previous articles]. I am one person who isn't usually afraid to voice his opinion and assume that you want to hear it. Even if you don't ... well, you didn't have to read this, did you? [But thank you for doing so, anyway! I luff you!]


It isn't enough that I'm opinionated in general [we went ahead and established this, right?] but I've been constantly consulted and cultivated for my opinion in a particular regard for years: Books.


When I worked at Borders (and ever since), I was regularly asked "Is this a good book?" and "Should I read this?" or "What do you think I need to read?" Is it any wonder I have raging Literary Narcissism? To that end, after Borders closed in 2011 I began posting "Summer Reading Lists" but this year I've decided to kick it up a notch - I'm going to randomly begin posting OPINIONATED STATEMENTS ON WHAT YOU SHOULD HAVE IN YOUR PERSONAL LIBRARY because ... well, you should just read these books already.




Beatrice knew she heard the muffled cries of her children from the other room but chose to turn the page regardless ... they could always beg on the streets for food; she had these books to finish.

Whether you're a reader of light-hearted fare or deep and heavily introspective works, I know some great authors and books that belong in your personal library. They range from the brilliant Stacey Ballis, Caprice Crane, Kelly Barnhill, Brian Farrey, Maggie Stiefvater to the absurdly funny Celia Rivenbark, Freeman Hall, Laurie Notaro and Jen Lancaster. And don't forget classics fromJane Austen and Vergil.


Stacey Ballis:

"Off the Menu" and "Out to Lunch"        Stacey - aside from being a wonderful, lovely and loving person to know -  is one of those brilliant authors who can effortlessly weave a fantastically fun story with depth and characters you can't help but both identify with and fall a little in love with. Each of her hit-novels have been a-can't-put-down read which I may or may not have devoured in the course of an evening each. Stacey writes with such depth and passion that you cannot help but be pulled into her wonderful take on modern life in Chicago nor can you help but be pulled into the entwining lives of her broad cast of characters (after you read a few of her novels, you'll notice cameos! SQUEE!) These two most recent additions to her pantheon of awesome are must-buys! The added bonus recipes at the end of her books? ERMEHLERDD! If you have even the barest hint of good taste, you'll order both of these and then demand another helping!


Caprice Crane:

"Confessions of a Hater" and "Family Affair"        Caprice is in a class by herself (whether as a staunch friend or writer) and when it comes to injecting poignancy and hilarity into a story she has no peer; having honed her skills between screenplays, television series scripts and several amazing novels she has a distinct and terrific narrative voice which she is able to blend into a myriad of characters and story-levels (she is at home writing for a young adult audience as she is writing adult fiction). Whether you love them or love to hate them, her characters comprise believable true-to-life (and yet sometimes over-the-top) worlds; a feat which assuredly stems from her own background between NYC and LA. Caprice's ability to deftly tell even a painfully awkward story with wit and poise is a never-lauded-enough talent and one you're sure to enjoy! Take it from me.


Kelly Barnhill:

"The Mostly True Story of Jack" and "Iron Hearted Violet"        Kelly is one of those rare talents that writes not only beautifully dark tales for adults (her catalogue of short stories for Sci-Fi/Fantasy anthologies is impressive to say the least) but pens layered and rich tales for the middle grade set (which, since I'm recommending them, are also easily enjoyed by the ... um ... not-so-middle-grade set). Her work wends its way between believable reality and heightend fairy tale in such compelling ways that when the story involves a cantankerous princess in a world rife with magic arguing with a dragon ... you don't even pause; you're right there with her entrenched and caught up in the tale one hundred percent.


Brian Farrey:

"The Vengekeep Prophecies" and "With or Without You"        What is it with Minnesota? The state seems to produce more fantastic authors than you can shake a stick at (Kelly, Brian, Anne Ursu and more!) and each one stands apart with skill and taste. Brian is able to weave tales on a myriad of levels; his innovative middle grade action/adventure/fantasy trilogy which kicked off with "The Vengekeep Prophecies" is both endearing and hilarious; producing just as many "Aww" moments as not-so-quiet chuckles at the easily connectable first-person narrative. "With or Without You" is a stand-alone award-winning piece of art: think "The Outsiders" crossed with "Rainbow Boys". A heart-wrenching and amazing tale which will break your heart and remind you that you have one at the same time. 


Maggie Stiefvater:

"Lament" and "Ballad"         Maggie is a demi-local NYT bestelling author (whom I was 2 years behind in college and have met a few times after when she'd shop/sign at my bookstore) whose work spans the YA genre gamut. As popular as her Werewolf series and more recent books are, her first two novels are what I first read and loved. Set in a very-similar-to-where-we-went-to-college town, Maggie's Dark Faerie novels are captivating and vastly enjoyable. To say that I've been pining over a possible third novel in the series for the lastREDACTED  years is an understatment.


Blog 01
Some people often wonder where all of my paycheck goes ...



Celia Rivenbark:

"Rude Bitches Make Me Tired" and "You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl"        Celia is one of those suave, sweet and swearin' Southern ladies you have to read to believe. I had the great fortune to meet her while on vacation two summers ago and she is just as funny and sweet in-person as you could hope. Her humor essay collections range from the poignant to the absurdly hilarious as she takes on everything from Bubbas to Da Hubby with wit and pinache reminiscent of Nora Ephron (yet, even funnier - yes, I said it). You'll find amazing (and amazingly funny) advice in her newest collection, "Rude Bitches Make Me Tired" and if you can keep yourself from snorting in laughter ... well, I'm not sure if we should be friends.


Freeman Hall:

"Retail Hell" and "Return to the Big Fancy"        Freeman is a fantastic friend (he pushed me to start this website!) and an entertaining writer whose deliciously devilish humor memoirs about work in the retail world (as compared to his hilarious spoof of "Stuff White People Like" entitled "Stuff That Makes a Gay Heart Weep") are a MUST READ for anyone who has ever worked in retail/customer service or had a friend/loved one/passing acquaintance who has. Despite (in my opinion) never-enough publicity for his second memoir the word has gotten out - and that word? Is "HILARIOUS". Freeman's voice is both uniquely singular and, yet, the perfect everyman. Think "The Grapes of Wrath" but with snark, handbag sharks and caustic wit set in the world of retail ... you won't regret adding these to your library.


Laurie Notaro:

"The Potty Mouth at the Table" and  "I Love Everybody (and other atrocious lies)"        Laurie Notaro is practically a household name in humor; her memoirs and novels each garnering NYTbestseller status and these are two fine examples of why. Whether you're the uncomfortable-singing-in-public-type who lip-syncs along with Christmas Carols so as to not appear rude or the type who just isn't comfortable with anyone touching your shower puff [I'm sorry, but just because I'm marrying you does NOT give you the shower puff touching rights - amiright?] or someone who wants to yell at pretentious Yoga Snobs ... Laurie is the right touch. Judging from the hoarse voice I got reading her out-loud on a road trip to entertain my Mum, everyone should love this potty mouth.


Jen Lancaster:

"Bright Lights, Big Ass" and "Twisted Sisters"        Jen Lancaster is best known for her debut humor memoir, "Bitter is the New Black", however her follow-up, a collection of humor essays, will probably retain position as my favorite laugh-producer ever. Admittedly, this may have something to do with the fact that I was lucky enough to read it in manuscript form [Jen is not only my literary hero, I'm lucky to call her my friend] and would consider it better than even the most popular David Sedaris collection (blasphemy schmasphemy). Her most recent foray into fiction is a deliciously delightful read (although, I all-too swiftly devoured it #FirstWorldProblems). Ooh, and if you pronounce a certain antagonist/hero character's name you MAY notice a (purposeful) similarity to ... well ... you get the idea. 


To see the other books on Benjamin's Reading List click here...