15 Signs a Retail Job Will Make You Miserable

Discover the 15 telltale signs that could save you from a lifetime of retail woes.
Updated March 8, 2024
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Anyone who's ever worked retail knows about dealing with cranky customers, sore feet, and picky managers.

Retail can be a thankless job. And even though working in retail can help you get ahead financially, this type of job isn't for everyone.

If you fall into one of these 15 categories, you should probably avoid working retail at all costs

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You're not a ‘people person’

VadimGuzhva/Adobe sales agent posing at furniture store

You don't need to be an extrovert to work retail — although introverts might want to hide at home after a long shift. But you do need to be something of a "people person."

From showing interest in the customer looking for a dress for a special occasion to listening to someone describe the specific book they're trying to track down, you need to like people and talk to them if you're going to work retail.

You're not comfortable standing for long periods of time

bernardbodo/Adobe sales agent reviewing inventory using tablet

Most retail positions don't involve sitting. Whether you're on the floor or at the register, you'll be standing for hours on end, and you might not get to wear sneakers.

That means retail can be a tough gig for those who aren't comfortable on their feet.

You expect every holiday off

crizzystudio/Adobe african american female manager opening store

People love filling their carts during holidays. That means you might be on the schedule on or around holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Even if you get one major holiday off, you can count on working the next.

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You’re looking for high wages

Gorodenkoff/Adobe male cashier scanning groceries at store

Retail pay is notoriously low, so this might not be the right field for those looking to bring home the bacon.

Of course, if you hope to move into management, taking an entry-level retail job that doesn’t pay a lot could still be a step in the right direction.

You need alone time during the day

hedgehog94/Adobe saleswoman showing luxury watches to client

Yes, there will be required breaks during a shift. But retail isn’t known for giving you time off to collect your thoughts and be by yourself.

Instead, you'll need to be “on” throughout most of the day, ready to help a customer at a moment’s notice.

You get easily annoyed at small requests

mavoimages/Adobe business woman on call at work

Part of working retail is offering a graceful, cheerful reply to the requests of customers.

In retail, you need to put customers’ needs first, even when they ask questions that seem obvious or annoying or make requests that bug you.

You don’t want to work weekends and nights

jackfrog/Adobe couple working at whole foods store

Retail gets busy when customers have time off from work to shop. Most of these people have time on the weekends and evenings after work.

They want time to hit their favorite stores as soon as they’re off the clock, which keeps you on the clock during those times.

You can’t get behind the ‘customer is always right’

Drazen/Adobe woman using self checkout services

In reality, sometimes the customer is wrong. But that doesn't mean you can tell them that.

If you don't think you'll be able to hold your tongue if a customer insists a shirt is blue when it's clearly red, other jobs might be a better choice than retail.

You take bad moods personally

pressmaster/Adobe senior couple at checkout counter

It can be tough not to react when someone treats you unkindly. However, in retail, such behavior comes with the territory.

If someone else’s bad mood rubs off on you or upsets you deeply, look for other work.

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You hate picking up

dusanpetkovic1/Adobe happy employees arranging groceries on shelves

Whether it’s dressing rooms or a grocery basket full of go-backs, picking up discarded items comes with the territory in retail.

If you can barely manage to clean your room and dread picking up after someone else, steer clear.

You hate breaking the ice

jackfrog/Adobe woman with salesman at food store

Part of retail is marching up to people who are peacefully shopping or aimlessly wandering and asking if they need help.

If the idea of breaking the ice with a stranger sends you into hives, stay far away from retail roles.

You don’t like relearning the store every few months

Odua Images/Adobe male store manager checking product list

Most stores and shops bring in new merchandise regularly or at least seasonally. For workers, that means figuring out where everything went from one day to the next.

Those who love consistency and routine might find a desk job a better bet.

You get sick easily

WavebreakMediaMicro/Adobe smiling worker posing behind counter

Working retail puts you on the front lines of dealing with the general public daily.

Remember, not everybody stays home every time they have a stuffy nose. If you get sick easily or have immunocompromised loved ones, look for a less forward-facing work environment.

You don’t have a poker face

KOTO/Adobe woman sampling cheese at deli counter

You need a smile on your face to work retail — or at least the ability to hide your true feelings, even in the most nagging of moments.

If you don’t have a poker face, don’t work retail.

You don’t like clocking in and out

Yakobchuk Olena/Adobe female shop assistant at cashier counter

Most retail jobs are hourly, which means you clock in at the beginning of your shift and clock out when you’re done.

If you don’t like the feeling of being on the clock while Big Brother watches, this might not be the type of work for you.

Bottom line

loreanto/Adobe african american store manager at entrance

Retail is a great entry-level job for high schoolers, college students, and those who want to rise through the ranks to manager and beyond. But it’s not for everyone.

If you decide that retail is not a good fit for you, remember that there are many other ways to earn income that will boost your bank account without driving you crazy.

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Author Details

Heather Bien Heather Bien is a writer covering personal finance and budgeting and how those relate to life, travel, entertaining, and more. With bylines that include The Spruce, Apartment Therapy, and mindbodygreen, she's covered everything from tax tips for freelancers to budgeting hacks to how to get the highest ROI out of your home renovations.

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