Today's edition of Express, the free daily foisted on commuters in the Washington Post's local coverage area, featured an advertisement from grocery chain Giant, part of Dutch retail conglomerate Royal Ahold (NYSE:AHO), for its "5 in 30" promotion. The idea, according to the ad, is that time-strapped mater- and paterfamilii can stop in and check a kiosk for a weekly five-ingredient recipe, snag the ingredients from around the store, check out and cook up.

While Rachael Ray is busy getting her copyright lawyers on the phone, I'd like to take a slightly different tack inspired by an article written in Sunday's Post in which writer Margaret Web Pressler takes a look at Stores magazine's list of America's top 100 retailers and notes the changes in the top 10 over the last decade. Department store chains such as J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) and May (NYSE:MAY) have fallen off the chart amid the ascendancy of discounters such as Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), grocers a laKroger (NYSE:KR), and super-sized drug store chains such as Walgreen (NYSE:WAG).

But what, Pressler asks, does it all mean? Perhaps the most interesting observation her article makes is that while we all like to gripe about service when it's bad, we aren't willing to pay for it. Most of the retailers mentioned above are laid out -- ingeniously, I might add -- to facilitate self-service and ease of filling massive carts and minivans. (Costco (NASDAQ:COST), anyone?) Something's got to give when you're going for low prices and high volume, and service is the logical target.

If enough customers minded, perhaps we'd see something change. For now, however, we see things headed in the other direction. In the modern shopping era, companies such as high-end, high-touch electronics retailer Tweeter (NASDAQ:TWTR) get their lunch eaten by Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), while Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFMI) gets gushing coverage because its staff -- gasp -- actually knows where and what items are.

In such an environment, it makes one wonder whether Giant's attempt to pass off a menu card and pre-made shopping list as a service is cynical -- or just a company's best effort to provide some kind of value-add to a consumer public that has largely stopped asking for it.

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Fool contributor Dave Marino-Nachison doesn't own any of the companies in this story.