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Costa Rica has grown as a mecca for ecotourism from the late twentieth century. Although biologists and other students of ecosystems and biodiversity were vital at the start of the process, as were conservation NGOs and the national government, this paper argues that entrepreneurs

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The rise of self-service grocery stores

Through the turn of the 20th century, especially in cities, Americans tended to shop for food either at large outdoor markets or at local grocery stores.

At the outdoor markets, shoppers fended for themselves, relying on their senses. They eyed, touched, sniffed, and even tasted the goods to guide their purchasing decisions—all the while getting socked in the face with the smells and sights of chicken coops, dead pigs, and other barnyard realities. But at the local grocery stores, food was often kept either behind the counter or in a back room, hidden away from the public, and consumers depended on the grocer or butcher to choose the food for them.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, more and more grocery stores converted to self-service retailing, displaying products in the open so that consumers could choose for themselves. The rise of supermarkets spurred the trend, as did the availability of refrigerated shelves, which enabled the safe display of food that would otherwise spoil.

Also vital to the adoption of self-service retailing: the invention of cellophane, and continual improvements to the product. As it turned out, the evolution of self-service retailing in the United States was directly tied to the evolution of transparent packaging. Reasonably, retailers depended on a consumer’s ability to see a product before buying it.

“Especially after the rise of supermarkets, consumers couldn’t talk to store clerks to help them choose,” Hisano says. “But consumers knew how food should look based on their experience.”

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