Most grocery stores sell all of their fruit, including bananas, by the pound. But at Trader Joe’s, bananas are sold at a flat rate — 19 cents per banana, no matter how large or small. The reason is a little-known secret recently revealed on Trader Joe’s podcast, Inside Trader Joe’s. It’s a short and endearing story involving a witty elderly woman and plastic bags. Intriguing…
You see, Trader Joe’s doesn’t have food scales in their stores. Typically, these scales are what enable grocery stores to sell their produce by the pound. Trader Joe’s was faced with an option for every single piece of produce they decided to sell: Either they had to sell them pre-packaged or sell them by the piece at a flat rate.
At first, Trader Joe’s figured: Who needs just one banana? You typically buy bananas by the bunch. Only every bunch of bananas has a different number of fruits. So they decided to weigh the fruit and package them in plastic bags at the warehouse prior to shipping. The smallest bags typically contained four to five bananas.
That system worked for many customers, but not for everyone. The chain got some interesting feedback from one customer at the (now-closed) location in Sun City, Arizona.
“In Sun City, a nice little lady comes up and she looks at all the packages,” said Dan Bane, former manager and current chairman and CEO at Trader Joe’s, in the first podcast episode. “But she didn’t put one in her cart.”
Confused, Bane asked the woman why she decided to pass on her purchase. “Sonny, I may not live to that fourth banana,” the old woman replied simply.
“And so we decided the next day that we were going to sell individual bananas,” Bane relayed, “and they’ve been 19 cents ever since.”
Trader Joe’s really listens to their customers — here are some other little-known facts about the chain.