The first major sign this author encountered was the switch years ago by merchandisers to the use of electronic calculators that figured out what change is owed the customer. When I was a cashier for the A&P in 1958, we did not have those and each of us had to be able to make change in our head. I can still do that now, and do that to check the machine. But forget having the clerk do it. As a result our clerks are dumber than those in developing countries that LACK those crutches, er I mean, machines.
Recently, one more example: Turns out that Office Max no longer gives you an instant rebate on used ink jet cartridges turned in at the store. Instead you have to join their "club" and they will SEND you a coupon for you to use, if and when you remember to bring it in again. When I complained Office Max was counting on some of us never turning in the coupons, I was told no, that is not the reason. Turns out the only cartridges ever available for the refund were HP cartridges (which is what I use), and some clerks were unable to make the distinction when they were turned in, and instead paid out willy-nilly. So instead of teaching their clerks how to be smarter, we have this new system.
The dumber we get, the worse is the service we get.