retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

One of the questions I get asked most often by MNB readers with whom I find myself chatting is this: "Have you ever gotten up in the morning and had nothing to write about?"

The answer, happily, is no. It's never happened. Not in the more than 13 years that I've been doing MNB. There's always something ... though some mornings are better than others.

Consider, for example, today. It could've just been a regular morning, replete with stories that offered business lessons about strategic thinking, tactical movement, and smart marketing.

But, no.

Today, there was a story that ran in newspapers all over the UK. One of those papers was the North Devon Journal, which provided perhaps one of the best headlines I've ever had the pleasure to read:

"Erection-inducing deadly spiders found in Tesco bananas by shocked wife"

It's okay. You can go back and read it again. (I did when I first saw it.)

This is, in fact, an actual story. Not something from the Onion, and it ran in newspapers all over Britain. Some papers emphasized the killer spider part of the story, some focused on the erection. The really good ones - and by "good," I mean the ones that really wanted to be read - managed to get all the elements into their headlines - the killer spiders, the erection, and, of course, the bananas.

It seems that what happened is that a man bought a package of Costa Rican bananas from his local Tesco and brought them home, where his wife discovered that they were infested with Brazilian Wandering Spiders, which are also known as Banana Spiders. (Apparently, the Brazilian Wandering Spiders are common to Costa Rica, which explains, if nothing else, the whole "wandering spider" thing...)

According to the story, "It is considered the world's most dangerous spider. They are aggressive and venomous spiders which can lead to death and serious injury - including a painful four-hour erection."

The woman reportedly called Tesco, where a representative said she should bring the bananas back to the store where they were bought, so that the local manager could decide on the proper course of action.

Really? That's the best they could come up with?

I find myself wondering what the options might've been, other than taking the bananas back, killing the spiders, and offering both a full refund and an apology.

Perhaps the spiders could've been repackaged, priced higher, and marketed to murderous and/or dissatisfied wives in the "marital aides" section. (It's been a bad run for Tesco, you've got to grab the opportunities when and where you can.)

Of course, if Tesco did this I assume it would have to offer all the usual caveats to customers. Like, "normally when a man finds himself with a four-hour erection we would urge him to call a doctor, but in this case a mortician probably would be the better course of action..."

In fact, the North Devon Journal writes, Tesco probably could've sold the spiders to the scientists who actually are studying the Brazilian Wandering Spiders to see if their venom can be adopted for erectile dysfunction treatments. (Can't wait to see the good news/bad news fine print on those drugs...)

I also find myself wondering about the wife. Was she really shocked? Or, for at least a few moments, did she consider the possibilities and offer her husband a banana? The bad news, or maybe the good news, is that I'm going to end up a widow. But the better news is that the last four hours of the marriage are going to be one hell of a ride.

So there you have it. Some mornings on MNB are better than others, and sometimes we get a gift, in the form of an Eye-Opening headline that reads, "Erection-inducing deadly spiders found in Tesco bananas by shocked wife".

It's true. There will always be an England. And sometimes it'll be known for more than a stiff upper lip...
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