Banana economics: buy 942lb of fruit, give it away - and make pounds 25 profit

Physicist Phil Calcott always wanted to make a grand gesture. So the chance to give away nearly half a ton of free bananas proved utterly irresistible.

The idea came to the 28-year-old scientist when he saw a special offer at his local Tesco supermarket. "They had this offer on where you could buy three pounds of bananas for pounds 1.17 and get 25 points on your Tesco Club card, which you could redeem for goods worth pounds 1.25," said Mr Calcott.

"I did a mental calculation and it seemed you couldn't lose. Basically they were paying shoppers eight pence to take away three pounds of bananas."

Mr Calcott was so convinced the two-week offer was ripe for the taking that he spent pounds 367.38 buying up 942lbs of Tesco bananas. Supermarket staff twice had to stack up a trolley seven feet high with bananas and wheel it outside to Mr Calcott's Peugeot 205.

"I took a car load at a time because even with the back seat down and the boot full I could only fit in 460lbs of bananas," said Mr Calcott.

He continued: "Tesco were very helpful. They put the bananas on a trolley and loaded them up for me. But when I popped back for some more they said they were not doing any more bulk orders and would only sell me one case, which is quite understandable because they seemed to be making a loss on it.

"At one stage my living room was stacked from floor to ceiling with 25 cases containing around 3,000 bananas." Mr Calcott then set about giving away the fruits of his labour

"Some people were dreadfully suspicious because they couldn't conceive of anybody giving something away," said Mr Calcott who works at a government defence establishment.

"Yesterday I took 70 pounds of bananas to give to friends at work and they have made me a badge which says 'The Banana King'. The only abusive reaction I had was after giving a bunch of bananas to a woman at her home. As I walked down the garden path her husband shouted 'It's money we want - not bananas'.

"Children in the street now shout 'Bananaman' whenever they see me," he added.

"All I have left are two bunches of bananas for my own consumption - and that's it. Giving away things for free has always appealed to me - just to see how people would react. It's been great fun and I'd do it again. I'm waiting for a special offer on pine-apples because I am rather partial to them."

Mr Calcott now has almost 8,000 Tesco Club card points and his banana spending spree has netted him a pounds 25.12 profit - although it must be spent on goods at the store.

Tesco said its promotion - which ends this weekend - was not due to a banana glut but was simply the latest special offer to card holders. A spokeswoman said she had not heard of any shoppers loading up with cheap bananas. "It's not what we had in mind. But if people choose to do it then it's up to them."

Leading article, page 11

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