The Pros & Cons Of Working Retail Over The Holidays

The Pros and Cons of Not Working Retail During the Holidays

A few months back, my mom asked if I wanted to fly down to Georgia for Thanksgiving weekend. In my eight years of living in New York, I have never flown home for Thanksgiving; it’s expensive, and I’ve almost always been able to put together a decent spread with friends and roommates throughout the years. However, talking to her, I also realized a glaring reason I had never even thought about coming home that weekend: I was almost always working at the bookstore Black Friday through Sunday.

This last August, I left my part-time job in retail that I held for almost eight years, from my last year at NYU to three full time jobs. As much as I would like to say it was a calculated decision, it was more of a leap of faith, and while I have been happy with my decision overall, I have been finding little unexpected consequences to my departure from retail, especially right now during what used to be our busiest season. Here are some pros and cons I’ve discovered of not working retail during the holidays:


  • I miss the money. Absolutely. I find myself hemorrhaging money during this season on everything from gifts to getting a tree to social events to day to day maintenance. More free time also means more opportunities to spend money, which is always difficult to balance. While I’ve been scraping together some freelance writing and transcription gigs to try to cover some of the unusually high cost of the season, the work is unsteady and I miss the consistency of a paycheck (especially during a time when it’s easy to pick up extra shifts).
  • I miss the discount. Not that it made a huge difference, but it was nice to know that, for small gifts, I could get a nice percentage off. Also, the store usually had employee appreciation thing around this time, so there was some extra potential savings.
  • I miss the camaraderie. I definitely miss a lot of my coworkers, though I do keep in touch with most of them. While I don’t miss the long shifts that bonded us together, I do miss the moments where we connected in our exhaustion.
  • It was nice to know what were the it gifts. Working in retail, we always had to be up on the bestselling products and what was on the market. Sometimes I miss being more aware of what the big books are and hearing from customers why they liked them.


  • I have more time. I love not having to request days off months in advance or worry about making it to holiday events. I feel very much in control of my schedule, and that is a huge relief. I also have more time in general, which is great for running errands and checking things off my to-do list like a normal person.
  • My body is not completely breaking down. This used to be the season where it was easy to get sick due to contact with so many people, which would mean missed paychecks and potentially missed days at my full-time job. I’m also less tired in general, as the job could just be physically demanding.
  • The holidays feel a little less about consumerism. Watching people shop and seeing how stressed out it made them was a real bummer sometimes. Also the sense of entitlement people feel towards salespeople can already be soul-crushing, but it’s even worse during a time when we’re supposed to be celebrating “good will towards your fellow man.”

On a day-to-day basis, sometimes the effects of not working retail during the holidays feel a bit like Gift of the Magi. Like, I finally have extra time, but no money to fill it with the activities I’d most like to do. Or I no longer have to put up with a slew of new seasonal employees and can spend quality time with my former coworkers, but a lot of them have busy work schedules due to the time of year.

Still, the pros far outweigh the cons, so I haven’t felt an ounce of regret. And, if anything, in upcoming years there will always be holiday seasons with stores hiring, should I ever feel compelled to go back.

Kimberly Lew is a published playwright and blogger living in Brooklyn. She will be celebrating her non-retail-working holiday at home with her tree and life-sized Worf (from Star Trek) decal, which she outfitted in a Fargo-esque winter sweater. Check her out at

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