The Banana Effect


Small things can have big effects. A smile to a girl living at the neighbor ends up to a loving marriage with two kids, a carelessly dropped banana peel on the street results in a massive brain damage for a passerby, or a cancelled plane ticket saves you from a fatal crash – the butterfly effects of the real life.

If a movement of a butterfly’s wings can result in a tornado at the other side of the world, can a small decision at a retail store result in a bankruptcy for a multinational company? In the real life? That’s the question I raised after a near store experience.

The Incident

Today, on a quick routine pop-up to the small convenience store around the corner I fell head first into a banana – incident.

On the store shelf were the standard Chiquita bananas you can find in many, if not most convenience stores, but only the price tag and a scale number* for the usual second variant here – the Fair Trade bananas. Going around the corner to ask the sales clerk what is the scale number I should use, I got the somewhat bored ‘why are you asking’ look accompanied with the following discussion:

Me: “What’s the scale number I should use to weight the bananas? I noticed there was only a price for the Fair Trade ones, but You only had Chiquita bananas on the shelf”?
The sales person: “Chiquita bananas don’t have a scale number in the system”.
Me: “Aren’t the Chiquita Bananas much cheaper?
The Sales Person: “Well, not that much”.
Me: “Should I use this number then or should you go and change the scale settings?”
The Sales Person: “Well, we can give a small discount on the still”.

And that was it for the discussion. I got the small discount, walked out, and looked back at the incident with some confusion.

The encounter got me thinking about the sales of Chiquita. And of course about the correct course of action for better customer service and experience, but that’s a topic for another occasion.


The Vicious Circle of Bananas

If given a bit of lenience for this though pattern of causal effects and time, the seemingly small decision to not put a scale tag for the Chiquita bananas could have an extremely adverse effect on the business performance of Chiquita.


The sales for Chiquita bananas go for the Fair Trade bananas

      = Measured lower sales for Chiquita and better sales for Fair Trade in the system
      = Poor results in retailer business and assortment review for Chiquita
      = Chiquita loses space and assortment

= Chiquita sales decline, profits go down and people get fired.

And all of this due to a small missing scale tag.

Of course, or at least hopefully, the end result will not be as grand or menacing as the cause-effect relationship would suggest, but it highlights the importance of having the details correct at the store level. The much advertising saying of ‘retail is detail’ proves to be true again. Even with the banana effect.


Who’s to Blame on the Downfall of Chiquita?

Most of the time the simple reason why the seemingly small things are left undone is due to people not fully understanding the impact their decisions have on the business – whether it is the placement of goods on the shelf, the price markings on the product or the missing scale numbering, if talking about it in the retail store context. And I’m not saying that there aren’t ‘more important things’ to do at the store level, there always are, but still all things, no matter how small, have to be done at some point – and if these things have an effect on sales, preferably done sooner than later. As a previous boss of mine said, “it’s a matter of career choices”, and in retail one has chosen to get into to the details – always.

Who’s to blame on the upcoming downfall of Chiquita then? The management of the retail chain, the management, the management, the management. And communication. Of the management. Don’t blame the banana. Blame the management.

That’s the Banana Effect. You can always try to prove me wrong.

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