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How Five Bananas Turned into Five Bunches: Consumer Product Shortage Linked to Grocery Store Personnel Misunderstanding Blind Shoppers

As the holiday season approaches and grandmothers everywhere furiously knit Christmas sweaters for their entire extended families, troubling reports of product shortages and delayed shipping timelines have shoppers worried about whether or not they’ll be able to fulfill the annual Christmas tradition of mega-consumerism. Experts have reported that supply chains have been disrupted by labor shortages and COVID-related production issues, but one particularly significant cause has gone largely unnoticed. The Squeaky Wheel has coined it “the banana problem.”

“With proper training and equipment, even a totally blind person can travel the world independently,” said Chris Colsen, a blind advocate. “The one place that manages to be inaccessible to even the most competent blind person, however, is the grocery store.”

Colsen explained that at grocery stores blind shoppers typically ask the customer service desk for a staff member to walk with them and help find the products they need. These helpers are colloquially called “assists.”

“While a lot of people would prefer to have an accessible environment that could be navigated independently, we do appreciate having at least one option to shop in person,” he added. “The problem is, there’s been an increase in miscommunications.”

To learn more, we turned to blind Reddit and asked for anyone willing to share stories of personal experiences with the banana problem. We received hundreds of responses, including this one from someone under the username “Blind&Sexy”:

“I walked with the assist to the fruits and veggies section and asked for five bananas, and he was like ‘FIVE bananas?’ and I’m like ‘…yeah five bananas?’ and he’s like ‘ok…’ and I should’ve known something was off because when I asked for double-stuffed Oreos he asked if I was sure I didn’t just want regular Oreos. ANYWAYYYY I go to checkout and the clerk is like ‘do you want a separate bag for your bananas?’ and I’m ‘uhhh sure’ which should’ve been a red flag but I kind of just wanted to move on with my life. So I get home and I’m putting the groceries away with my girlfriend and she’s like ‘where do you want me to put the bananas’ and I’m like super confused because I already put the bananas away and she’s like ‘idk dude I’m holding bananas right now’ and that’s when I figure out I GOT FIVE BUNCHES OF BANANAS so now my freezer is full of bananas and I’ve had like six smoothies in the last week but I’m still working through them if anyone has ideas on what else to do with that many bananas.”

Blind&Sexy is not alone in their troubles. It appears that several others have received as many as eight bunches of bananas in their shopping carts, along with dozens of egg cartons, pounds of ice cream and hundreds of Benadryl bottles.

“I once brought home sixteen packs of toilet paper,” said another Reddit user. “I think I might have single-handedly started the toilet paper crisis of March 2020.”

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