General Question

livelaughlove21's avatar

In general, does serving or retail bring in the most income?

Asked by livelaughlove21 (15715points) July 18th, 2011

I currently work full time and will need to find a part time nights/weekends jobs for the remainder of the time I’ll be in school (about 3 years). I need something with flexible hours so I can possibly work more while I’m on break or less while I’m in school—I’d also need it to be flexible so I can do a summer internship or two without having to quit and find another position. I also need soemthing that would bring me AT LEAST $185/week just to scrape by with my bills at around 25 hours per week. I have plenty of customer service and sales/retail type experience.

I’ve come to the devestating conclusion that I’m stuck between a job in retail or a job as a server at a restaurant. I know these things vary quite a bit, but in general, would I bring in more money in a guaranteed paycheck retail position or a tip-based server position? Which would be the better choice, do you think, for what I’m looking for in a job?

I start school in 2 weeks, so I’m starting my search now. I’m just not sure which way to go. Any advice/suggestions would be great!

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30 Answers

SpatzieLover's avatar

Retail work will not be flexible whereas serving can be more flexible. Depending on where you serve, the cash tips certainly can be helpful when you are in school.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Another vote for serving, you’ll get tips and the hours will probably be more flexible. And all the stuff @SpatzieLover said.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Serving if you’re good at it. If you’re not good the tips will not be as much.

Blueroses's avatar

My best student jobs have been pizza delivery (if you have a car): Free pizza, great tips and drive around listening to your own music.

Or overnight shift at a hotel desk: pays better than retail and only about 3 hours worth of work for an 8 hour shift leaves lots of time for studying.

rOs's avatar

I’m with @Blueroses, I made bank as a delivery driver. Easiest money I’ve ever made.

CWOTUS's avatar

You are not “stuck” with anything until you decide that you are. And then you’re stuck for good and ever – until you change your mind again.

You have considerations about education, internship, part-time work, flexibility, current “needs”, etc.

The truth is that you don’t need any of that. You could have a great life without finishing whatever course of education you’re on, you don’t need to do internships, will never get decent “living” income from “flexible” part-time work, and can live on even less than what you now consider to be “bare bones minimum”.

Although I don’t recommend that you abandon education – I never advocate for that – if what you’re thinking of as “education” is really “career training”, then you can certainly abandon that in favor of another career.

The career I nearly always try to steer young people into these days is going into business for yourself. You’ll be happier. You’ll feel more productive. You’ll understand the value of work – and the uselessness of make-work. You’ll get a better education than you ever dreamed of, and faster than you would have thought possible. You will probably fail at least once, and maybe several times. But if you’re smart, then you’ll learn more from the failures than from random and sometimes lucky successes, and that will make you a better business person next time around. If you fail ten times, but get up eleven times, then you’ll be a success.

And you might just make tons of money, too.

I wish that I had had this advice when I was starting out. I’m too set in my ways and ‘comfortable’ where I am now to want to start over that way – unless that becomes necessary – but my daughter is taking my advice and doing very well in terms of “making a successful business”, even though she hasn’t yet started to pay off her loans. I have all the confidence in the world that she will, and I’ve never seen her happier.

ejedlicka's avatar

I have had both types of jobs for long periods of time. there are good and bad things about both.

Working in retail gives you guaranteed hours. They always need someone working and the turnaround rate of employees is ridiculous so they are always hiring. You get large lumps of money every 2 weeks that can go directly into your bank account if you set it up. This is definitely a plus if cash burns a hole in your pocket. The downside is that you don’t have the instant gratification and that some of them aren’t so flexible if you need a day off at the last minute. However, because they always have plenty of employees there is usually not a problem getting off if you give notice.

The serving job is what I’m working now. I have to say that I enjoy it much more, because I enjoy working with people, but if you aren’t a people person this job is definitely not for you. They are very very flexible, especially with students and can usually get shifts covered at the last minute if needed. The comment about making bad money above i disagree with, even starting out when you aren’t the best at serving you will ALWAYS at least get minimum wage. If your tips aren’t making up for the gap between your hourly and how many hours you work, the company is required by law to fill in that gap. So say you make 2.13 and hour (fairly standard rate for a server) and you work 4 hours. If you only make 10 in tips because it is slow that day (which rarely happens) then you will have made an additional 2.50 an hour and the company will pay the extra 2.26 an hour to give you the minimum wage of 7.25. Getting cash every day is definitely awesome, but only if you are willing to go put it in the bank instead of spending it. The one downside that I find is that if business is slow you are sent home and you don’t make a ton of money.

I hope that this advice is helpful. If I were you, I would take the serving job. I find that there are more rewards in the food business and the time goes by a lot faster!

MissAnthrope's avatar

I agree with the pizza delivery.. I did that and made pretty good money. Things may be different now that cost of gas is so high, but if people tip well in your area (i.e. it’s not, like, 90% students), you could do very well. Plus, as has been mentioned, you get to spend a lot of time without a boss watching you, driving around listening to your own music. I enjoyed it.

I would definitely pick serving over retail. I’ve worked both and made vastly more money serving. Like, no contest. The only exception would be if you had a job where you made commission and you happen to be a very charming salesperson. Other than that, serving tends to allow great flexibility of schedule (provided you can work nights, weekends, and holidays) and a fantastic ratio of time put in and the amount of money made in that time period.

If you can manage it, the real money is in banquets. Frankly, now that I’ve worked banquets for so many years, it’s very tough going back to restaurant work. Part of it is that I’ve done this for so long that I no longer have much patience for ridiculous, stupid people. With banquets, it’s generally pretty straight-forward, little customer interaction (which I love), bing bang you do your job and walk out with wads of dough. Usually servers make 15%-18% of the event cost (often in the thousands of dollars), split amongst the number of people working the event. For weddings, this can mean you make $100+ in a night, easy, on top of your hourly wage.

Hibernate's avatar

I’d go for retail and mostly because you can get off by announcing it. If you need a day off while you are serving you might not get lucky.

JLeslie's avatar

Serving is probably more flexible, and probably better money, but you can make good money in retail depending on what part of the country you live in and what stores are near you. Serving is more back breaking most likely, and the environment is probably not as nice, uless you work in a really nice restaurant. Or, that is how I picture it. I worked in retail for years, sales people when I worked in FL many years ago made between $8 and $25 an hour more or less. They did not come home smelling like food, or dealing with dirty dishes all night. Although, in retail you can get some gross returns, and during busy times of the year it can run you ragged.

Why not apply for both and see what pans out.

Carly's avatar

I have a friend who works two jobs, one at Chevys and another at Hollister co. He works less at Chevys and makes 4 times as much because of tips, and he only works at Hollister to get discounts on their clothing – otherwise (as he’s telling me right now) he’d never work in retail.

JessicaRTBH's avatar

High end retail (commission based only) is where it’s at in my opinion. There is nothing more awesome than selling a $3,000 dress and knowing 10% is yours (in terms of making quick money not awesomeness in the world) I suppose fine dining can be pretty lucrative as well. I would say retail typically makes less if you’re non commission based though. I just never wanted the hassle of claiming tips and counting on people not to be cheap. I believe you’re taxed regardless. I knew I was good at selling things and would honestly make a terrible server for various reasons. It does stink when it’s not busy season and when your co workers are cut-throat and steal sales though.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@everyone—Well I used to work at a restaurant in high school. Started off as a host, made crap money, switched to curbside, made about $20/night in tips, then got offered the opportunity to serve, hated it, and avoided it like the plague because I didn’t really NEED the money anyways. What I loved about working there was the environment. It was easy, laid back, and I really liked the people and I looked foward to seeing them when I went into work—we always had a lot of laughs. However, I’ve NEVER worked in a retail position at a clothing store or anything.

I feel like liking my job in college is less important than the other things I need to consider (flexibility, money, etc.). Even though I’d probably like retail more, it’s clear I’ll make more money at a restaurant. I may apply at a couple of places like Home Depot, Lowes, etc…places that pay more than minimum wage, but I know those places won’t be flexible with me when it comes to an internship or needing time off to study like a restaurant would. Covering your shift in food service is generally pretty easy seeing as people always need money.

I’m not sure what type of restaurants to go to. High end restaurants will bring in more money, but being trained in fine dining and wine and all that is something I don’t have time for. Plus, the stuffy environment would really add to my dislike of the job. Seeing as I only really need to make $40/night 5 nights a week to pay my bills, I may go for more laid back places. Decisons, decisions…

livelaughlove21's avatar

**POSSIBILITIES:**
Longhorn Steakhouse
Outback Steakhouse
Texas Roadhouse
Applebee’s (where I used to work)
Chili’s
Ruby Tuesday’s
O’Charley’s
Carolina Wings
Wings and Ale
Buffalo Wild Wings
Bonefish Grill (higher end seafood)
Gilligan’s (lower end seafood)
Olive Garden
Carabas (italian)
Macaroni Grill (italian)
Olive Garden
Copper River Grill (prom-y place)
Jilians (more of a bar with food and bands and drunk people)
Liberty Taproom (same as above, but not as much)

Thoughts?

CWOTUS's avatar

I still say “do something on your own”. Break out of that “working for others” rut – although you never can completely:

Mow lawns
Do light housekeeping
Walk dogs
Do landscaping

I know a 14-year-old boy in the neighborhood (15 this year) who has had his own lawn mowing business for three years or more. He owns a small fleet of riding lawn mowers, has part-time help work for him, and more clients than he can adequately service – he needs to continue to expand. I have no doubt that if he wants to, by the time he finishes high school he can move up to “a fleet of trucks and full-time workers”.

My cousin and her husband mow lawns. They take winters off and go to Florida or Maine, and I think they still make more than I do. They work from dawn to dusk every day of the summer (even in the rain, more often than not), but they enjoy the work, too.

Find something that you enjoy doing and build your own business. I may do it yet.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I’ve had friends make good money at places like TGIFridays. I think on your list the ones I’d go towards are:

Longhorn Steakhouse
Outback Steakhouse
Texas Roadhouse
Applebee’s (where I used to work)
Chili’s
Ruby Tuesday’s

Keep it to chains with food and drinks for now.

JLeslie's avatar

Best Buy as a corporation is very flexible with work hours in their headquarters, maybe they are in their stores also?

Many retailers will pay better than minimum wage. Do you like Cosmetics? Shoes? Both departments tend to pay well. Either straight commission or base plus commission.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@livelaughlove21 I think I’d hate mowing lawns and walking dogs more than serving to be honet with you. In my area, there’s not enough of a demand for that type of stuff. Everyone does it on their own and if they don’t, they’ll only want to pay a couple of dollars for their entire lawn to be mowed. I need something where I know where I need to be and what I need to do and know I have the opportunity to make money and I don’t have to depend on other people needing something done at their home. I’m going to school to be a probation officer—owning my own business just isn’t for me. My dad owns his own company—it’s more of a hassle than it’s worth sometimes.

@JLeslie Well I’d rather not work in a mall, and those are the only places around here that have department stores like that. I may consider it though. Thanks for the suggestion.

Blueroses's avatar

@livelaughlove21 I think you meant to direct your last response to @CWOTUS rather than to yourself

JLeslie's avatar

The department stores typically pay better, unless the specialty store is very high end.

Another idea is a spa/salon. I was making $14 an hour booking appointments and checking in people.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Avoid Applebee’s and Ruby Tuesdays. Go for the steakhouses, Olive Garden, or anything a little bit more upscale. People tend to not tip very well in the lower-end places, but that also has a lot to do with where you live, as well.

JessicaRTBH's avatar

I’d stick with the steakhouses as well. However, I had a friend that made a killing at Buffalo Wild Wings. I believe it was something to do with their trivia night and having a good group of regular customers. In my opinion it’s got a good balance of food and drink and tables flip fairly quickly. I was a hostess at Olive Garden (about a million years ago) and all the servers ever complained about was how nobody tipped well yet expected a ton. However, I realize this will vary by location and people just what I’ve observed.

SpatzieLover's avatar

In my locale, TGIFridays & Applebees have to compete with the local hangouts, so they practically give liquor away for free. For that reason, the tips for the staff are higher than average.

ejedlicka's avatar

I would have to agree with @SpatzieLover . I work at an applebee’s and make around $300 a week and as a student that’s about all I need right now so its awesome. Don’t avoid “lower” end places because you think you will make less. If you have little or no experience with serving you won’t get serving jobs at any places other than that kind of restaurant (plus those restaurants are actually more laid back and REALLY fun – my Applebee’s has a kareoke night every week that I participate in!)

JLeslie's avatar

Olive Garden is more upscale than Ruby Tuesday’s?

SpatzieLover's avatar

That could be another Fluther discussion @JLeslie. Rank the chain restaurant by scale ;)

JLeslie's avatar

@SpatzieLover I like that idea. I vaguely remembee questions about which chains the collective likes. You ask it, it’s your idea. I’ll answer.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Blueroses Indeed. :)

@JessicaRTBH I’m seriously considering applying to Buffalo Wild Wings for those reasons. It seems like a fun environment with the sports bar type of feel and, like you said, the tables turn quickly.

@ejedlicka $300 a week at Applebee’s? You go girl. :) My sister has been at Applebee’s for a REALLY long time and sometimes all she pulls is $40—$50 a night five nights a week. They have karaoke night as well. And you’re right, it is a fun place to work.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Serving, you can find a 24hr eatery easier than you can find a 24hr retail store.

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