If a floor is full, and you place your retainer on it, it will bounce off the floor after 30 seconds (if you do this via the new dispatch command). If you go to a floor that is full, you will not be able to summon your retainer (at least this was the case pre 1.22, I haven't been back on the floor with my retainer since the update).
If you dispatch your NPC, wait ~30 seconds, and ring the bell again, if it still says your npc is on the floor, you can click on them to see if you get the menu choice to pull them from the floor (choose no), or if they bounced they may already be listed sitting idle again.
Try and place them on another floor if you don't get the warning about pulling them, or if they are sitting idle in your home town.
And don't worry about putting them in Ul'dah anymore. People do check all the wards now that you can do it from any town. Would be nice if the rep from each area was in the same zone, but I could see that as being a server load issue.
Needless to say, I moved my retainers to Gridania, and have no problems selling stuffs.
As for gear, they removed most combat gear drops from leves, and the remaining gear is very rare to get. However, Gathering gear is still fairly common. I am sitting on 3 level 30 hatchets, and 3 level 40 Sledgehammers from botany and mining. Typically you get tools, more than gear, but I ussually get around 2-4 pieces of gear every 5-10 levels harvesting (It's been a while since I have done it). And while that doesn't sound like a lot, it's enough to reduce the need to buy gear once you get started (you will still need to get different pieces to complete sets, and if you are going for materia melds, it definitely doesn't help).