Holiday workers can cash in on deep company discounts

CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 04: A pedestrian passes by and American Apparel store in the Wicker Park neighborhood September 4, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. American Apparel Inc. plans to terminate about 1,500 employees in its Los Angeles factory, approximately one-quarter of the work force, following a probe by U.S. immigration authorities. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson

(MoneyWatch) Are you looking to line your pockets with a little extra cash this holiday season? One way of doing that is by picking up a seasonal retail job, and in the process getting access to what could be a generous company discount.

Discounts can run anywhere from 10 to 50 percent. Sometimes additional perks are thrown in, like free food, or the ability to let friends and family also enjoy discounted merchandise.

Here is a list of some of the discounts for seasonal workers at a number of the nation's largest retailers:

-- American Apparel - 50 percent on all merchandise, as well as higher discounts or giveaways on specific items, and a twice a year seasonal allowance for employee

-- Ann Taylor - 50 percent off all full-priced products and 20 percent off sale products

-- Best Buy - Employees can purchase all merchandise at 5 percent above cost to the company. The discount is usually available only after 30 days employment, but this restriction is waived from late November to New Year's Eve.

-- Burlington Coat Factory - 10 percent off

-- Goodwill - 20 percent off

-- Ikea - 15 percent

-- Mars (M&M stores) - 30 percent off all merchandise, with occasional promotions offering a 40 percent discount to associates and friends and family

-- REI - 50 percent on all REI brand products

-- Sears/Kmart/Lands End - Between 10 and 25 percent, depending on the type of merchandise

-- Starbucks - 30 percent off any purchase, plus a free pound of coffee (or box of K cups) every week

-- Target - 10 percent off all merchandise, including prescriptions at the Target pharmacy

-- Trader Joe's -- 10 percent off

-- Tuesday Morning - 20 percent off

-- Williams Sonoma - up to 40 percent off

Retailers recognize the appeal of the employee discount, and in some cases they are using it as a recruiting tool in attracting seasonal candidates. A search of listings at - a job site for hourly employees - found that many companies, including Ann Taylor, Best Buy and Burlington Coat Factory mention company discounts in their listings.

A job listing on another site for a temporary barista at Starbucks reads: "Just in time for holiday shopping, you will receive an employee discount starting your first day!"

Kim Costa at Snagajob said wage and other factors usually outweigh discounts when workers consider holiday positions. "Flexible hours are a big thing, especially for seasonal jobs, because there's so much going on during the holidays -- everything is about family, and finding the right balance."

While employers are proud of the perks they offer, they don't want you to ask about the discount when interviewing. Employers responding to a recent survey said they find this to be a big turn off.

Meanwhile, Scott Dobroski with, a jobs site that allows workers to rate their employers, said employees continue to be enthusiastic about discounts. He sees them mentioned time and time again in the reviews posted to the site. One worker at REI said of his 50 percent discount, "This is crazy and great. Who would want to pay regular price after that?"