Do You Know Your Bananas?

My wife often asks me, “Why do you engage people so much?”

I usually answer, “because I learn things that way.”

Of course, sometimes the engagement goes South. But every now and then, the encounter produces a variation on a thread that runs through my life.

Like Bananas.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like a good banana.

When I read Rich Cohen’s The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about them. Cohen, who was also the author of Tough Jews, weaves an incredibly rich, entertaining and inspiring story about Sam Zemurray who created an empire around the banana. It’s a must read for a business person.

Since opening my business over 30 years ago, I’ve kept fresh fruit on the table in the kitchen of our offices. I told my employees, “The day you don’t see fruit is the day to start worrying about the business.”

Through good and bad times, I kept that tradition, and the banana was a consistent winner: there were none left by the end of the week, while other fruit like the apple or pear remained.

We Have No Bananas

On the way to the office a couple of week ago, I stopped at the local fresh fruit market (not a chain) where there is an abundance of choices, including bananas.

As I faced the banana stand, there was a man to my right (I was on the left by the 59-cents  a pound sign). I had grabbed my three bags for the bunches I would pick and I noticed this man kept picking up a bunch, looking at it, putting it back, picking up another bunch and repeating the examination. He didn’t stay to the right, but strayed toward me reaching for a bunch in front of me. He was examining each with an intensity that was curious.

I spotted the last of three bunches I wanted at the upper level on the far right in front of the man, and decided to go for it.

I said, “Pardon me,” reached and grabbed it. He looked at the bunch he had in his hand and quickly glanced at mine as if comparing them.

I put mine in my plastic bag and was about to leave, when the man said, “Excuse me, but are all these bananas the same price?”

I replied pointing to the sign, “Yes…59 cents a pound.”

“But there is no price on the sign on the right,” he pointed out.

I nodded. “You are correct,” I said, “but that doesn’t matter. They are all 59-cents. They probably ran out of the signs.”

“Are these organic,” he asked. “Is that why there is no price there?”

Fair question, I thought.

“No,” I said. “Organic ones are on the other side, and are 99 cents a pound. They are also wrapped with a plastic band. The store doesn’t want you mixing up organic with these regular bananas, although if they are coming from the ground, I think that may qualify them for organic.”

He smiled. “Then why do these 59-cent bananas on this side have different labels?” He showed me and it was clearly two different brands of bananas.

“That’s a good point, ” I said looking closer and see there were indeed two different brands. “But that doesn’t really matter. They are all 59-cents because they are on this side.”

He smiled, nodding in understanding. “It sounds like you know your bananas.”

I smiled back. “Nature’s perfect fruit,” I mentioned as I turned toward the register.

“Lots of Potassium,” he said, putting the bunch he was holding in his own plastic bag.

“What about the egg,” said another man on the other organic side who had over heard the conversation.

“Every vitamin known to man is in the yoke of an egg,” I said.

“And the cholesterol too don’t forget,” he said, smiling.

As I walked to the register, I thought to myself this was one of those moments so spontaneous and unexpected, was fate trying to tell me something? How do you have a conversation like this wearing a mask?

As I paid my 59 cents a pound, I also wondered about the nature of information, how it moves, is circulated and consumed. Do people really understand bananas when they buy them? Or eat them? Or do they just buy them on the price, regardless of brand like we did that day?

Then I secretly wished that some of my clients would realize that I really know my bananas.



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2 thoughts on “Do You Know Your Bananas?

  1. Excellent example of how our seemingly mundane tasks can give us insight from a business point of view! Just goes to show, when your in marketing, you never stop working. This definitely has me thinking aloud when it comes to customer acquisition and their perception of the products or services we offer. It’s always been my experience that if you “know your bananas”, thus perceived as an expert in your respective industry, the products basically sell themselves. Regardless of some fancy name or label that gets slapped on, people like doing business with informed people that know what they’re talking about, and more importantly can use that knowledge to solve a problem they’re experiencing. We’re going to put some effort in understanding the correlation between industry expertise & customer acquisition. This will go along way in helping us win over our customers before a product or service is ever offered. Once we’ve accomplished that, the rest should be a piece of cake. I’m very grateful for the insight and look forward to future blogs. You really “know your bananas” and it shows! Now we’re going to do a better job at knowing ours. Thanks Jim!

    1. Josh, thanks for the insight…and the comment! The thing about bananas is that they get ripe, and that’s why you have to replace them sometimes. I broke into this business working for a guy — very successful — who had the “proven formula.” But the market changed, and he didn’t change his formula. While he ended up selling his company for a pretty penny, he ultimately lost because he didn’t realize the formula was ripe. Good luck, and thanks again. Pleasure meeting you the other day on the phone.

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