Imagine this scenario: It was still dark this morning when you started your car. The gas tank light that signals "empty" came to life, so you pulled into a service station to refuel and pumped the gas yourself. Sometime around noon, you and your colleagues walked over to a salad bar in a nearby food court. On the way, you stopped at the ATM to withdraw enough cash to pay for lunch. Once there, you carefully arranged the perfect salad, one that balanced your preferences with a very real need to cut down on cholesterol. All in all, it was a pretty typical workday in the 21st century.

When I reflect on a morning like that, I realize that 50 years ago, no retail manager would have considered delegating such responsibility to the consumer. Today we can't imagine why any store ever needs extra staff to perform such basic tasks.

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