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A business model in which a company sells a product that the buyer selects and/or uses without direct supervision by the seller. One of the most common examples is a gas station, where customers normally put gas in their automobiles themselves. Another example is a grocery store, where customers select items and put them in a shopping basket before check out. Self service may reduce costs and, in any case, it frees employees to perform other tasks.
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self-servicea form of retailing whereby customers of a RETAIL OUTLET (shop, filling station, etc.) select for themselves the goods they wish to purchase and pay for them at a ‘checkout’. Self-service can be applied to both large- and small-scale retailing operations, and by cutting down on VARIABLE COSTS (i.e. eliminating the wages of sales assistants), it can assist a retailer or some other business (restaurant, cafeteria, etc.) to become more price-competitive. See RETAILER.
Collins Dictionary of Economics, 4th ed. © C. Pass, B. Lowes, L. Davies 2005