Counter and Rental Clerks

Significant Points

  • Jobs are primarily entry level and require little or no experience and little formal education.
  • Part-time employment opportunities are expected to be plentiful.

Nature of the Work [About this section]  Index

Whether renting video tapes or air compressors, dropping off clothes to be dry-cleaned or appliances to be serviced, we rely on counter and rental clerks to handle these transactions efficiently. Although specific duties vary by establishment, counter and rental clerks answer questions involving product availability, cost, and rental provisions. Counter and rental clerks also take orders, calculate fees, receive payments, and accept returns. (Cashiers and retail salespersons, occupations with similar duties, are discussed elsewhere in the Handbook.)

Regardless of where they work, counter and rental clerks must be knowledgeable about the company’s services, policies, and procedures.

Depending on the type of establishment, counter and rental clerks use their special knowledge to give advice on a wide variety of products and services, which may range from hydraulic tools to shoe repair. For example, in the car rental industry, they inform customers about the features of different types of automobiles as well as daily and weekly rental costs. They also insure that customers meet age and other requirements for rental cars, and indicate when and in what condition cars must be returned. Those in the equipment rental industry have similar duties, but must also know how to operate and care for the machinery rented. In dry-cleaning establishments, counter clerks inform customers when items will be ready. In video rental stores, they advise customers about the length of rental, scan returned movies, restock the shelves, handle money, and log daily reports.

When taking orders, counter and rental clerks use various types of equipment. In some establishments, they write out tickets and order forms, although most use computers or bar code scanners. Most of these computer systems are user friendly, require very little data entry, and are customized for the firm. Scanners "read" the product code and display a description of the item on a computer screen. However, clerks must insure that the data on the screen accurately matches the product.

Working Conditions [About this section]  Index

Firms employing counter and rental clerks usually operate nights and weekends for the convenience of their customers. However, many employers offer flexible schedules. Some counter and rental clerks work 40-hour weeks, but about one-half are on part-time schedules—usually during rush periods, such as weekends, evenings, and holidays.

Working conditions are usually pleasant; most stores and service establishments are clean, well-lighted, and temperature controlled. However, clerks are on their feet much of the time and may be confined behind a small counter area. This job requires constant interaction with the public and can be taxing—especially during busy periods.

Employment [About this section]  Index

Counter and rental clerks held 469,000 jobs in 1998. About 1 of every 4 clerks worked for a video tape rental store. Other large employers included dry cleaners, automobile rental firms, equipment rental firms, and miscellaneous amusement and recreation establishments.

Counter and rental clerks are employed throughout the country but are concentrated in metropolitan areas, where personal services and renting and leasing services are in greater demand.

Training, Other Qualifications, & Advancement [About this section]  Index

Counter and rental clerk jobs are primarily entry level and require little or no experience and little formal education. However, many employers prefer those with at least a high school diploma.

In most companies, counter and rental clerks are trained on the job, sometimes through the use of video tapes, brochures, and pamphlets. Clerks usually learn how to operate the equipment and become familiar with the establishment’s policies and procedures under the observation of a more experienced worker. However, some employers have formal classroom training programs lasting from a few hours to a few weeks. Topics covered in this training include a description of the industry, the company and its policies and procedures, equipment operation, sales techniques, and customer service. Counter and rental clerks must also become familiar with the different products and services rented or provided by their company in order to give customers the best possible service.

Counter and rental clerks should enjoy working with people and have the ability to deal tactfully with difficult customers. They should be able to handle several tasks at once, while continuing to provide friendly service. In addition, good oral and written communication skills are essential.

Advancement opportunities depend on the size and type of company. Many establishments that employ counter or rental clerks tend to be small businesses, making advancement difficult. But in larger establishments with a corporate structure, jobs as counter and rental clerks offer good opportunities for workers to learn about their company’s products and business practices. These jobs can be stepping stones to more responsible positions, because it is common in many establishments to promote counter and rental clerks into assistant manager positions.

In certain industries, such as equipment repair, counter and rental jobs may be an additional or alternate source of income for workers who are unemployed or entering semi-retirement. For example, retired mechanics could prove invaluable at tool rental centers because of their relevant knowledge.

Job Outlook [About this section]  Index

Employment in this occupation is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2008 due to businesses’ desire to improve customer service. Industries employing counter and rental clerks that are expected to grow rapidly include equipment rental and leasing, automotive rentals, amusement and recreation services. The number of new jobs created in other industries, such as video tape rental stores, will also be significant. Nevertheless, most job openings will arise from the need to replace experienced workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. Part-time employment opportunities are expected to be plentiful.

Earnings [About this section]  Index

Counter and rental clerks typically start at the minimum wage, which, in establishments covered by Federal law, was $5.15 an hour in 1999. In some States, State law sets the minimum wage higher and establishments must pay at least that amount. Wages also tend to be higher in areas where there is intense competition for workers. In addition to wages, some counter and rental clerks receive commissions, based on the number of contracts they complete or services they sell.

Median hourly earnings of counter and rental clerks in 1998 were $6.97. The middle 50 percent earned between $6.03 and $8.79 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $5.70 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $11.12 an hour. Median hourly earnings in the industries employing the largest number of counter and rental clerks in 1997 were as follows:

Miscellaneous equipment rental and leasing $8.20
Automotive rentals, no drivers 8.10
Miscellaneous amusement and recreation services 6.30
Laundry, cleaning, and garment services 6.20
Video tape rental 5.70

Full-time workers typically receive health and life insurance, paid vacation, and sick leave. Benefits for counter and rental clerks who work part-time tend to be significantly less than for those who work full-time. Many companies offer discounts to both full- and part-time employees on the services they provide.

Related Occupations [About this section]  Index

Counter and rental clerks take orders and receive payment for services rendered. Other workers with similar duties include bank tellers, cashiers, food and beverage service occupations, postal clerks, and retail salespersons.

Sources of Additional Information [About this section]  Index

Disclaimer: Links to other Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

For general information on employment in the equipment rental industry contact:

For more information about the work of counter clerks in dry cleaning and laundry establishments, contact:

  • International Fabricare Institute, 12251 Tech Rd., Silver Spring, MD 20904. Internet: http://www.ifi.org
O*NET Codes: 49017 About the O*NET codes

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