RETAILING: No Breaks for This Clerk

No Breaks for This Clerk

Ever notice how retail clerks always seem to be on their coffee break when you have a request? Not the proprietor of a compact-disc outlet that opened last week in Minneapolis. The clerk behind the counter boasts an encyclopedic knowledge of the 5,400-item inventory, and never leaves the store. The attendant can't, because it is a robot -- the first to run its own shop.

Invented by Robert Cahlander and David Carroll of the Robot Aided Manufacturing Center in Red Wing, Minn., the robot has a 400-lb. arm that dispenses discs, makes change and processes credit-card purchases. Its computer brain also...

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