One late Friday afternoon last month, the three-story Whole Foods Market at Union Square in New York City was, as usual, teeming with customers. To accommodate what one shopper called the “insane” crush of Manhattanites toting their natural and organic groceries, Whole Foods designed a highly unorthodox checkout scenario. Its most distinguishing characteristic is a “single-queue system,” whereby one line of shoppers feeds a series of registers, with the customer at the head of the line ...

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