Amazon has been passing out free bananas out to its employees, neighbours and anybody who wants one for two years

Amazon community banana standMatt Weinberger/Business InsiderThe Amazon Community Banana Stand. ‘Not just for Amazonians, but for anyone in the community,’ the sign says.

So just how did Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos get to be the world’s richest man?

One theory: There’s always money in the banana stand.

Since late 2015, Amazon has operated the Community Banana Stand — a stall where anybody can come by and get a free banana (or two) from Amazon’s so-called “banistas,” whether or not they work for the retail giant. Nowadays, Amazon operates two banana stands near its sprawling urban campus in Seattle.

The idea for the Community Banana Stand came from Bezos himself, and the kiosks now give out over 1.7 million bananas per year, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year. Originally, Amazon considered oranges, but settled on bananas. The rationale was simple: offer its Seattle neighbours a healthy snack as a friendly overture.

When I was in Seattle this week, I had to stop by and see one of the banana stands for myself. I went around 8:30 in the morning, right as lots of folks were heading to work at Amazon and other businesses nearby, and it was busy, busy, busy. The free bananas were definitely a big attraction.

The kiosk I visited was in Seattle’s Denny Regrade neighbourhood, just a short hop away from the massive glass spheres Amazon is building in the shadow of its new skyscraper headquarters. That also puts it close to Amazon Go, the retailer’s vision for the cashier-less grocery store of the future.

Amazon domesMatt Weinberger/Business InsiderThese massive glass ‘biospheres’ Amazon is building on its Seattle campus are a short walk from one of its banana stands.

Not everybody loves the free bananas, according to the Wall Street Journal. Local shops are finding that nobody wants to pay for the bananas they sell when a free alternative is around the corner. And restaurants have had to deal with an uptick in discarded banana peels left behind by patrons.

After all this, you may wonder whether the bananas are any good. Your humble correspondent has to make a confession: I hate bananas.

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