Side Gig Series: The Best and Worst of Working Retail

Ah retail, whether it was your first job, your summer job in college, or your side hustle, retail has a lot of pros and cons. If you have ever worked retail, then you know this. If not I’m here to enlighten you.

I have had the pleasure of working retail at three very different stores: 

  • a sporting goods store, 
  • a department store, and 
  • a lingerie/undergarment store. 

I’ve worked as a cashier, sales associate, merchandiser, and fitting room attendant.

In this Side Hustle Series post, I’m going break down the pros and cons. But as the holiday season approaches many stores will be looking for extra workers, so this could be an easy side gig to pick up.

Pros of Working Retail

Flexible Hours

Many workers tend to work retail hours from one hour before open to one hour after the store closes. However, depending on your job in the store you may actually work there overnight or ridiculously early in the morning.

As a merchandiser, my shift often started 4-5 hours before the store opened, since my job was to get new merchandise out and set displays it was easiest and best to do it without customers around. 

Meaning, there are lots of different hours you can work in retail and the stores can be pretty flexible. Making it easier to fit a retail job in as a side hustle around your full-time job.

Great Discounts

Most retail employees get an employee discount and sometimes are given free product as well. In my experience the employee discount could usually be used on top of sales or coupons, allowing you to get stuff at a fraction of the normal price.

Even when I didn’t necessarily like the company because of its treatment of employees, I can’t deny that the discounts were awesome.

Another store I worked at gave us one of the new designs whenever they came out so that we could offer personal testimony. They didn’t come out with new stuff often but it was usually at least $200 of free stuff a year and discounts on anything we chose to buy as well.

Part of my wardrobe is still a result of my retail working days because I could afford to buy higher quality items as an employee.

Fun People to Work with (Usually)

I’m still in touch with some of my co-workers and there is always Facebook to keep tabs and be excited about big life events.

The thing with working in retail is that you are all in this together. As a retail employee, you end up with some pretty ridiculous stories, having others to commiserate and laugh with is great.

Variety, you might work the register one day and the sales floor the next

If you’re someone that gets bored doing the same thing every day then retail could be a great job for you as what you do can change from day to day. 

One day, I might be cleaning up a display area, and then working the sales floor the next, and cashier the day after that, or all three within one shift.

If you find yourself getting bored you can always talk to your manager to learn about doing something else. In most instances, they’ll be glad of your interest to learn a new role and can move people around.

Funny/Ridiculous Stories to Tell Your Friends

Oh, the stories retail workers could tell…

Like that time a lady was shopping in the store and somehow didn’t notice her kid get out of the stroller and pee on the floor. Ok, it is more ridiculous and gross than funny, but it is something crazy to tell people.

Though, in all honesty, I likely wouldn’t be sharing the story if I was the one that had to clean it up. 

Personally, I found the Dad that wouldn’t let his daughter get Crocs because he believed wearing crocs was like giving up on life and he wasn’t going to let her give up on life to be rather hilarious.

Every retail employee has several stories like this, just ask.

Great Exercise Because You’re Always on Your Feet

I almost miss having a job that had me walking around all day, the sitting around all day makes staying healthy more difficult.

Just make sure you have comfortable shoes. Eight hours in bad shoes can be pure torture, think about how long you will be on your feet before you choose cute over comfy.

Cons of Working Retail

Low Pay

Depending on the store and the job the pay can vary but it usually isn’t too far off from minimum wage. Unlike other jobs, tips usually don’t happen. When payday comes you may be left a little disappointed, oh taxes.

Try to find out if your state offers opportunities to make more. For example, in Massachusetts working retail on Sunday means earning time and a half.

Then, of course, there is holiday pay as well, the better employee you are the more likely you’ll be scheduled for the higher paying shifts.

Dealing with the people that become the ridiculous stories you tell your friends

Like the lady that refused to believe that her child peed on the floor. Or the people that try to steal and then you catch them and they try to play it off like they weren’t stealing.

Basically working in retail makes you realize just how many crazy people there are out there. Even if they are chill and normal usually, somehow the crazy comes out when they are shopping. Got any #retailhorrorstories?

Doing inventory

Trying to count and scan china at 3 a.m. is soooo nerve racking. You’re exhausted and trying really hard to not drop really expensive stuff.

Really just the tedium of having to count everything in the store sucks. Seriously I don’t think it is possible to enjoy doing inventory, please correct me if I’m wrong.

For obvious reasons, inventory is usually conducted when the store is closed. Depending on the size of the store it may actually be an all-night affair, think 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. multiple nights in a row. For a smaller store, it may not be so exhausting.

Working Retail on Black Friday

You know those scenes in Mean Girls when everyone turns into animals?


That is what happens on Black Friday. Seriously one time I came in for my Black Friday shift and found a mannequin taken apart, later I found the dress. They violated the mannequin and didn’t even buy the dress.

Cleaning up after animals is no fun. So as Black Friday approaches I kindly ask that you remember to be kind to everyone working that day because there is already someone that is being not so nice.

Sore feet

Working retail on the floor for 8 hours or sometimes more even in comfortable shoes can take its toll. Be sure you know how to relax and put your feet up when you get home.

Sometimes crazy hours

Like on Black Friday when you work from 3am-11am or doing inventory overnight from 11 pm – 7 am. The constant change in your hours can make it hard to get a good sleep schedule going.

Bottom Line

Retail can be a great side hustle, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Whether the pros of flexible hours, great discounts, working with fun people, the variety of work, and exercise outweigh the cons of low pay, crazy customers, inventory, and sore feet is going to have to be up to you.

I hope this helps you get a better idea of what it is like to work retail and if you get the job, let me know!

Do you have any Retail Horror Stories? Share in the comments below.

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