Stereo Sold for 299 Bananas

Did a store make good on its offer to sell stereos for '299 bananas'?

Claim:   A store made good on its offer to sell stereos for “299 bananas” when customers proffered the fruit as payment.


Origins:   Slang is one of the more fluid components of language, often calling upon perfectly ordinary words to pull double duty as terms for something else. Thus, a lawyer becomes a “mouthpiece,”


a pretty woman a “doll” or a “skirt,” and a well-muscled bouncer a “gorilla.” We delight in these dual uses because, in oddball fashion, these creative doublings seem to convey in a more vivid fashion the essences of the items at hand.

Thus, names of various foodstuffs are often employed as casual terms for money (a theme of sustenance, perhaps?): lettuce, cabbage, coconuts, and even bananas. We accept these slang terms as an ordinary part of the linguistic landscape, barely giving them a second thought. Yet sometimes that second thought is required, especially in the world of commerce. It was the use of “banana” in the monetary sense that caused $10,000 worth of trouble for a national chain of electronics stores.

In 1986, Silo (a chain of home electronics stores) ran a television commercial in 23 markets nationwide, offering stereos for “299 bananas.” They never thought anyone would take them at their word; after all, “banana” is a widely accepted, if playful, term for greenbacks. Who could possibly mistake one for the other? Thirty-two customers held the retailer to its unwitting word — they showed up bearing loads of the yellow fruit and demanding the store keep its end of the


“The ad said bananas, by golly, and so we had 32 buyers come to our Southcenter distribution point Saturday morning to exchange bananas for the stereos,” Ed Altizer, Silo district manager, said.

Each stereo was exchanged for $40 to $60 worth of bananas, and Silo took in a total of 11,000 bananas. Many of the bananas were donated to Woodland Park Zoo, but there were too many even for the hungry animals.

“We need about 1,000 a week for the elephants, monkeys, gorillas, primates, hippos,” said Bob Daleske of the zoo commissary. “Most of our animals like them, but we can’t just give them bananas in uncontrolled amounts.”

Bananas were also donated to local food banks.

Barbara “banana republicans” Mikkelson

Last updated:   29 June 2013


    Associated Press.   “Bright and Brief.”

    30 April 1986.

    United Press International.   “Store Slips with Banana Ad.”

    30 April 1986.
Since 1994
A Word to Our Loyal Readers

Support Snopes and make a difference for readers everywhere.

  • David Mikkelson
  • Doreen Marchionni
  • David Emery
  • Bond Huberman
  • Jordan Liles
  • Alex Kasprak
  • Dan Evon
  • Dan MacGuill
  • Bethania Palma
  • Liz Donaldson
  • Vinny Green
  • Ryan Miller
  • Chris Reilly
  • Chad Ort
  • Elyssa Young

Most Snopes assignments begin when readers ask us, “Is this true?” Those tips launch our fact-checkers on sprints across a vast range of political, scientific, legal, historical, and visual information. We investigate as thoroughly and quickly as possible and relay what we learn. Then another question arrives, and the race starts again.

We do this work every day at no cost to you, but it is far from free to produce, and we cannot afford to slow down. To ensure Snopes endures — and grows to serve more readers — we need a different kind of tip: We need your financial support.

Support Snopes so we continue to pursue the facts — for you and anyone searching for answers.

Team Snopes