FREAK Shots: The Mystery of the Banana Stand

A reader named William Kearney describes the following mystery, which puzzles him every day:

Outside my building there is a woman with a fruit stand. Everything is normal about this fruit stand except for the fact that the BSL [Banana Stand Lady] will sell you two bananas for $1 and will sell you three bananas for $1! They are the same exact bananas (see attached picture) and the signs and stacks of bananas are literally one foot away from each other. I have done multiple double blind studies to test the quality of both piles of bananas and they really are the exact same. However, BSL gets upset if you try to get the three bananas from the two-banana pile.

Mysterious indeed. Readers, what could possibly be going through the BSL’s head? Is she perhaps a grad student working on a behavioral thesis?

DESCRIPTIONWilliam Kearney
DESCRIPTIONWilliam Kearney


maybe the 3-4-1 bananas are a couple of days old compared to the fresh 2-4-1 bananas.

George Bluth

There's a lot of money in the banana stand.


There is always money in the banana stand!!!

-George Bluth


The picture doesn't seem to show any glaring differences, but presumably Banana Stand Lady thinks the 3/$1 bananas are inferior in some way (size, ripeness, etc.).

Banana for Bananas

My guess would be that the price difference has to do with where the bananas came from. I often shop at Whole Foods, and they occasionally do the same thing--bananas from Peru are less expensive than bananas from Brazil (I think--I could have it backwards), even though they taste exactly the same.

Bobby G

There's always money in the banana stand.

Ed Q

There's always money in the banana stand


There's always money in the banana stand.

John Baker

Don't know what's going through the head of BSL, but I can tell you why I -- as an individual consumer -- might occasionally pick the two bananas instead of the three. I can't eat three bananas in one sitting, but I can eat two. Why not get three and save the other for later? Who knows when I'll next be in the banana mood? It might be days later, by which time the other banana might be rotten. Maybe I should get three and give the third to a homeless person, but I'd rather donate to an affirmed charity.

I just don't want food going to waste. It's the same reason I buy the $0.99 cheeseburger at McDonalds, when I could splurge for the McDouble for $1.

The economics make sense to me as well. I can pay $1 for two bananas and have just what I need when I want it, or I can spend $1 for three bananas and then spent a lot of mental effort deciding what to do with the one banana I don't eat.


Organic vs. conventional?


She may be timing the age of the bananas?

The older bananas being cheaper, as she would prefer to have them sold first. This was her bananas are sold before they go bad.

David L

Have you tried asking BSL?


Also, note that on the "3 banana" sign there is also the option to buy single bananas for 40 cents. Thus your choices are:

1 banana for $0.40
2 bananas for $0.80
2 bananas for $1.00
3 bananas for $1.00

TJ Carpentier

There's always money in the Banana Stand

Will O

The "3 for $1" pile look like they're in the sun more, and so are going to rot quicker. To sell them before they rot, BSL has to do the extra extra special deal, but this is not necessary for the "2 for $1" pile. Perhaps?

Seth B

The bananas are listed as 40 cents each. The stand owner likely does not want to have to deal with holding / distributing change. Therefore, she splits the baby and gives you a choice of either 2 bananas (80 cents) or 3 bananas (120 cents). Perhaps she does not like you taking two bananas from the three banana pile (or vice versa) because she has divided the bananas up into multiples of 2 or 3, and by taking the wrong number the piles are no equally divisible.


The obvious next step would be to ask her...

My first thought was that the 3/$1 bananas are day-olds, while the 2/$1 are newer?

In the picture, the 3/$1s look like they may be smaller, too...


Have you tried *asking* BSL what the big diff is? :D

As a life long monkeyish banana eater, all I can hazard as a guess - she sources the 2 piles differently, and needs to recover the cost.


Its obvious, we want to feel special. If we see 2 for 1 and 3 for 1, well it must be the 2 for 1's are better because they cost more. So, she advertises a better bargain but when you get close you realize that the 2 for 1's must be better. She then makes more money. She is smart


There's always money in the banana stand.