But the story behind the unique way the retailer sells its affordable bananas (by the piece, not by the pound) is not only surprising, it also teaches a valuable business lesson.
In a recent episode of the grocery chain's new five-installment podcast, "Inside Trader Joe's," the company's chairman and CEO, Dan Bane, recalls that they used to sell bananas by the pound, "like everybody else." Since they don't have scales in the store, they would weigh and pre-package them for customers, with the smallest bag you could buy containing around four or five bananas.
Bane remembers being in a Trader Joe's store when a conversation with a customer sparked the change in the way the produce is sold.
"I was watching [shoppers] in Sun City, [Arizona], which was near a retirement complex," he explains. "Customer — nice little lady — customer comes up and she looks at all the packages but didn't put one in her cart. And so I asked her, I said, 'Ma'am, if you don't mind me asking, I saw you looking at the bananas but you didn't...put anything in your cart.'
"And she says to me, 'Sonny, I may not live to that fourth banana,'" Dane recalls.
"And so we decided the next day we were going to sell individual bananas. And they've been 19 cents ever since," Bane says.
It's a brilliant lesson in business and in leadership: Listen to your customers.