I was reading a case study about the once revolutionary “Mas por Menos” supermarket chain in Costa Rica. They were the first ones to introduce the self service experience in that country almost 100 years ago. Before them, there was only the regular corner store, an experience that I remember seeing through South America when I was a child.
For traditional stores, you would approach a counter, and an attendant would fetch the items you requested. Sometimes they even measured out quantities from items that they had in bulk, and weighed your vegetables. The process was slow, but “personalized”. You could ask for “the better type”, or have them cut something in half, because you did not need the whole thing. This was the way things were done everywhere before supermarkets, even here in the United States.
Now we can just stroll down the aisles, picking the stuff we want.
Since 2012, we also have Instacart, and a host of other delivery options. The service was really popularized and many of us tested it out during COVID, when going to a store elicited a second thought.
When we use Instacart, we instruct a remote attendant to pick the items we request. We sometimes even ask them to measure out quantities of items that come in bulk, and we ask to get a certain weight of some vegetable.
We have gone full circle, from attendant, to self service, to remote shopper. We just added a supermarket, and an app layer in-between.
Sometimes, cutting-edge, is just retro, revisited.