How would you feel about a vending machine, instead of a person, serving you your warm pizza, with your topping of choice; asking you if you’d like to buy boxers or briefs; and dispensing your morning coffee or box of cigarettes at the gas station? To cut costs, companies are increasingly turning to machines instead of humans to dispense everything from clothing, including shoes, to electronics to hot food and even gold and silver for nervous investors. Some see this automation as the enemy since the retail industry has been a reliable, often last-resort, source of employment in tough times. Others claim that retail automation will free up low-skill workers to learn more advanced skills. Once gas stations had attendants who pumped for you, and elevators had attendants who pushed for you. Now both are self service. At Fresh & Easy Markets, there is no choice now but do-it-yourself checkout. Do you like it that way, or have operate-it-yourself elevators and pump-it-yourself gas stations conditioned you to prefer machines to people?
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