Tech giants like Amazon offer lots of employee perks. So in that world, free bananas would seem like a pretty minor giveaway. However, CEO Jeff Bezos was so enamored with the idea that when Amazon launched its first free Community Banana Stand (there are now two) on the company’s downtown Seattle corporate campus in late 2015, the brand decided to offer up free yellow fruits to everyone – not just Amazon workers, but locals as well. But though it’s been a boon to banana lovers, some local businesses complain that the policy his impinged on their banana sales.
The banana stands, which are open five days a week and suggest people “take one” but actually allow people to take as many as they like, currently give away about 8,000 pieces of fruit per day. According to the Wall Street Journal, which recently did a deep dive into Amazon’s banana disruption, “banistas” and “bananagers” (as the people who staff the stands are called) have given away 1.7 million bananas since the project launched, including 180,000 this past April alone. Though Bezos intended the concept to serve as a healthy and environmentally-friendly public service, some local shop owners have called it a public nuisance.
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A local café that used to sell plenty of bananas to go with its yogurt now says it struggles to sell the $1 topping. The manager thinks people are just grabbing their bananas for free from Amazon. Meanwhile, a manager at another restaurant said it’s not uncommon for customers to walk in banana already in hand – and even leave the peels behind when they’re done. Bananas are even harder to find in nearby grocery stores than they used to be – because how can you sell what people are getting for free?
John Schoettler, Amazon VP of Global Real Estate and Facilities, even said, “One day, I saw a woman drive down the street. She hopped out of her car. She ran up to the banana stand. She grabbed a whole bunch of bananas, ran back, got in her car and drove off.” Hopefully, she took them to somewhere they still had value… I guess Tacoma isn’t that far away.