Retailing: The Ubiquitous Salesman

Few Americans can move very far from home these days without running into a squat, silent (except for a few rumbles) salesman who has become an unbelievable success by indulging its customers' penchant for convenience, impulse buying and gadgetry. The salesman is the ubiquitous vending machine, before which Americans stoop, bow and jingle coins as if it were a roadside shrine. The machines usually come through, too, and with less fist-pounding than ever before. Some 4,500,000 of them—or one for every 43 Americans —now dispense everything from gum to gardenias to greeting cards at the drop of a coin.

The...

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