Jobs primarily are entry level and require little or no experience
and minimal formal education.
Faster-than-average employment growth is expected as businesses
strive to improve customer service.
Part-time employment opportunities should be plentiful.
Nature of the Work
Whether renting videos, air compressors, or moving vans or
dropping off clothes to be drycleaned or appliances to be
serviced, customers rely on counter and rental clerks to handle
their transactions efficiently. Although the specific duties
of these workers 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 returned
merchandise. (Cashiers and retail salespersons, two 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 goods and 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, ranging
from hydraulic tools to shoe repair. For example, in the car
rental industry, these workers inform customers about the
features of different types of automobiles and about daily
and weekly rental costs. They also ensure that customers meet
age and other requirements for renting cars, and they indicate
when and in what condition the cars must be returned. Those
in the equipment rental industry have similar duties but also
must know how to operate and care for the machinery rented.
In drycleaning establishments, counter clerks inform customers
when items will be ready and about the effects, if any, of
the chemicals used on garments. In video rental stores, counter
clerks advise customers about the use of video and game players
and the length of a rental, scan returned movies and games,
restock 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 barcode
scanners. Most of these computer systems are user friendly,
require very little data entry, and are customized for each
firm. Scanners read the product code and display a description
of the item on a computer screen. However, clerks must ensure
that the data on the screen pertain to the product.
Firms employing counter and rental clerks usually operate
nights and weekends for the convenience of their customers.
As a result, many employers offer flexible schedules. Some
counter and rental clerks work 40-hour weeks, but about half
are on part-time schedules—usually during rush periods, such
as weekends, evenings, and holidays.
Working conditions usually are 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 or may
be required to move, lift, or carry heavy machinery or other
equipment. The job requires constant interaction with the
public and can be stressful, especially during busy periods.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Most counter and rental clerk jobs are entry-level positions
that require little or no experience and minimal formal education.
However, many employers prefer workers with at least a high
In most companies, counter and rental clerks are trained
on the job, sometimes through the use of videos, brochures,
and pamphlets. Clerks usually learn how to operate a firm’s
equipment and become familiar with the firm’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 the nature of the industry, the company
and its policies and procedures, operation of equipment, sales
techniques, and customer service. Counter and rental clerks
also must become familiar with the different products and
services rented or provided by their company to give customers
the best possible service.
Counter and rental clerks should enjoy working with people
and should have the ability to deal tactfully with difficult
customers. They also 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.
In larger establishments, however, jobs such as counter and
rental clerks offer good opportunities for workers to learn
about their company’s products and business practices. These
jobs can lead to more responsible positions. It is common
in many establishments to promote counter and rental clerks
to event planner, assistant manager, or salesperson. Workers
may choose to pursue related positions, such as mechanic,
or even establish their own business.
In certain industries, such as equipment repair, counter
and rental jobs may be an additional or alternative source
of income for workers who are unemployed or semiretired. For
example, retired mechanics could prove invaluable at tool
rental centers because of their knowledge of, and familiarity
Counter and rental clerks held 451,000 jobs in 2004. About
23 percent of clerks worked in consumer goods rental, which
includes video rental stores. Other large employers included
drycleaning and laundry services; automotive equipment rental
and leasing services; automobile dealers; amusement, gambling,
and recreation industries; and grocery stores.
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.
Employment of counter and rental clerks is expected to increase
faster than average for all occupations through the year 2014,
as all types of businesses strive to improve customer service
by hiring more clerks. In addition, some industries employing
counter and rental clerks—for example, rental and leasing
services and amusement and recreation industries—are expected
to grow rapidly. 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.
Counter and rental clerks typically start at the minimum
wage, which, in establishments covered by Federal law, was
$5.15 an hour in 2004. In some States, the 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 May
2004 were $8.79. The middle 50 percent earned between $7.21
and $11.99 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than
$6.15 an hour, and the highest 10 percent earned more than
$16.79 an hour. Median hourly earnings in the industries employing
the largest number of counter and rental clerks in May 2004
were as follows:
Automotive equipment rental and leasing
Lessors of real estate
Consumer goods rental
Drycleaning and laundry services
Full-time workers typically receive health and life insurance,
paid vacation, and sick leave. Benefits for counter and rental
clerks who work part time or work for independent stores tend
to be significantly less than for those who work full time.
Many companies offer discounts to both full-time and part-time
employees on the goods or services they provide.
Counter and rental clerks take orders and receive payment
for services rendered. Other workers with similar duties include
tellers, cashiers, food and beverage serving and related workers,
gaming cage workers, Postal Service workers, and retail salespersons.
Sources of Additional Information
For general information on employment in the equipment rental