The best way to learn about the responsibilities of a stock clerk is to get a part-time or summer job as a sales clerk, stockroom helper, stockroom clerk, or, in some factories, stock chaser. These jobs are relatively easy to get and can help you learn about stock work, as well as about the duties of workers in related positions. This sort of part-time work can also lead to a full-time job.
Stock clerks work in just about every type of industry, and no matter what kind of storage or stock room they staff—food, clothing, merchandise, medicine, or raw materials—the work of stock clerks is essentially the same. They receive, sort, put away, distribute, and keep track of the items a business sells or uses. Their titles sometimes vary based on their responsibilities.
When goods are received in a stockroom, stock clerks unpack the shipment and check the contents against documents such as the invoice, purchase order, and bill of lading, which lists the contents of the shipment. The shipment is inspected, and any damaged goods are set aside. Stock clerks may reject or send back damaged items or call vendors to complain about the condition of the shipment. In large companies, shipping and receiving clerks may do this work.
Once the goods are received, stock clerks organize them and sometimes mark them with identifying codes or prices so they can be placed in stock according to the existing inventory system. In this way the materials or goods can be found readily when needed, and inventory control is much easier. In many firms stock clerks use handheld scanners and computers to keep inventory records up to date.
In retail stores and supermarkets, stock clerks may bring merchandise to the sales floor and stock shelves and racks. In stockrooms and warehouses, they store materials in bins, on the floor, or on shelves. In other settings, such as restaurants, hotels, and factories, stock clerks deliver goods when they are needed. They may do this on a regular schedule or at the request of other employees or supervisors. Although many stock clerks use mechanical equipment, such as forklifts, to move heavy items, some perform strenuous and laborious work. In general, the work of a stock clerk involves much standing, bending, walking, stretching, lifting, and carrying.
When items are removed from the inventory, stock clerks adjust records to reflect the products' use. These records are kept as current as possible, and inventories are periodically checked against these records. Every item is counted, and the totals are compared with the records on hand or the records from the sales, shipping, production, or purchasing departments. This helps identify how fast items are being used, when items must be ordered from outside suppliers, or even whether items are disappearing from the stockroom. Many retail establishments use computerized cash registers that maintain an inventory count automatically as they record the sale of each item.
The duties of stock clerks vary depending on their place of employment. Stock clerks working in small firms perform many different tasks, including shipping and receiving, inventory control, and purchasing. In large firms, responsibilities may be more narrowly defined. More specific job categories include inventory clerks, stock control clerks, material clerks, order fillers, merchandise distributors, and shipping and receiving clerks.
At a construction site or factory that uses a variety of raw and finished materials, there are many different types of specialized work for stock clerks. Tool crib attendants issue, receive, and store the various hand tools, machine tools, dies, and other equipment used in an industrial establishment. They ensure that the tools come back in reasonably good shape and keep track of those that need replacing. Parts orderers and stock clerks purchase, store, and distribute the spare parts needed for motor vehicles and other industrial equipment. Metal control coordinators oversee the movement of metal stock and supplies used in producing nonferrous metal sheets, bars, tubing, and alloys. In mining and other industries that regularly use explosives, magazine keepers store explosive materials and components safely and distribute them to authorized personnel. In the military, space and storage clerks keep track of the weights and amounts of ammunition and explosive components stored in the magazines of an arsenal and check their storage condition.
Many types of stock clerks can be found in other industries. Parts clerks handle and distribute spare and replacement parts in repair and maintenance shops. In eyeglass centers, prescription clerks select the lens blanks and frames for making eyeglasses and keep inventory stocked at a specified level. In film and television production companies, property custodians receive, store, and distribute the props needed for shooting. In hotels and hospitals, linen room attendants issue and keep track of inventories of bed linen, tablecloths, and uniforms, while kitchen clerks verify the quantity and quality of food products being taken from the storeroom to the kitchen. Aboard ships, the clerk in charge of receiving and issuing supplies and keeping track of inventory is known as the storekeeper.