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It's quite common for folks to look at a suddenly successful business enterprise and say, I wish I had thought of that. Of course we didn't, or we didn't have the money or connections to get involved.
Take energy-saving lightbulbs. They save consumers money over time, but cost more to purchase than cheap incandescent bulbs. And a lot of people disliked the whiter glow that fluorescent bulbs give off. But as energy bills kept rising, as motels and office buildings switched to the fluorescent look, and as the green movement got a foothold, consumers began buying energy-saving bulbs in record numbers.
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The latest example has been propelled by fears of the spread of the H1N1, or swine flu, virus. Some people have used hand-sanitizing lotions or wipes for years. They seemed, to some, a bit neurotic or odd. Now, sanitizing stations are everywhere: outside grocery stores, restaurants, and theaters, and inside workplaces – including our own here at VOA. Health-club and transit workers regularly wipe down equipment and seating. Our boss even passed out little plastic bottles of sanitizing lotion for us to use at our desks.
When Purell came out in the 1980s, the maker of that brand of sanitizer told the USA Today newspaper, it was used behind the scenes. If a business provided hand sanitizers, it would raise questions about cleanliness. Now it's just the opposite.
At one California company that makes organic, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, sales tripled in one week this past April, when the swine-flu scare hit the headlines. Other such companies are rubbing their hands with glee, so to speak, as the winter flu season approaches.
All of which prompts us to ask: Why didn't we get involved in making this stuff?
Read more of Ted's personal
reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's