Click and Deliver: Organic Products At Your Doorstep

October 15, 2004

ORGANIC shopping in Costa Rica has neverbeen so easy. Go online, make your selection andwait for a knock at your door shortly after.Along with the convenience of home delivery,buying online “…is the best way to get thewidest possible range of organic products,” saidNoel Payne, founder of www.comercioalternativo.com, an area Web site that offers everythingfrom organic essential oils and Chilean wines intransition to earth-friendly, biodegradable householdcleaners.Since Costa Rica lacks one-stop stores thatspecialize in a variety of alternative products,buying organic usually means trips to severalstores and markets, said Sylvia Escalante, theowner of www.naturastyle.com, another Website that also offers a variety of natural produce,dairy, gardening, and personal-care products,among many others, largely from Costa Rica.More than one year old, Natura Style currentlydelivers across the greater San Jose area,charges ¢1,200 for delivery without any minimumpurchase requirements and accepts cashpayments on delivery.COMERCIO Alternativo, which convertedits five-year-old retail business to a Web site morethan six months ago (TT, March 5), deliversthroughout Costa Rica by land and air, offers a24-hour reimbursement service upon delivery ofunsatisfactory products and receives payments inits bank account, after an initial deposit of amonth’s worth of shopping, or $50. Deliveries,free of charge, require a minimum purchase of¢6,500.Both bilingual Web sites deliver on a weeklybasis, provided orders are placed by a certain dayof the week, either online or by phone.Though a few clicks or calls can fill your grocerylist, online shopping has its downfalls.Forget hand-picking products yourself, saidEscalante, although both Web sites take note ofclients’ special requests, like ripe bananas orgreen peppers. Having to plan your grocery listahead creates another disadvantage, Payne stated.She also adds that prices tend to be higher.Payne explains that her Web site’s elevatedcosts represent a strong commitment to socialresponsibility.“There is an unhealthy tendency … to knockfarmers’ prices down to a level at which they cannotmake a decent living,” she said. “Farmershave the right to prices which enable them tocover their costs and make a reasonable living.We want organic agriculture to be sustainable.”

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