The confusion began Friday with a television spot in 21 cities across the country. Three items were being promoted, but only the stereo was advertised as costing "299 bananas."
"Obviously people knew we weren't exchanging stereos for bananas, but they were willing to push it," Michael O'Hara, the company's advertising vice president, said in a telephone interview yesterday. "We could have said clams or smackers or bucks. What was someone going to do, bring us 299 deer?"
Seattle and El Paso were the only markets in which people came bearing bunches of bananas, O'Hara said. Thirty-two stereos in the Seattle area and three in El Paso were exchanged for fruit.
Buying a stereo for 299 bananas cost those shoppers between $35 and $50 each.
In Seattle, Silo donated its haul to the city zoo, which uses only 1,000 a week and gave away most of them to a food bank.
The cost of the banana mix-up was no small potatoes for Silo - $10,465 in lost revenue on the steroes - but the company had to honor the ad to maintain the goodwill of its shoppers, O'Hara explained.
"You don't spend all that money on a TV commercial only to make people mad at you," O'Hara said. "It was an expensive commercial when the whole thing was said and done."
Silo, which had expected to rerun the commercial, has now decided to scrap it, O'Hara added.
"I looked at the commercial before it aired, and so had many people here and at our ad agency, Lewis Gilman & Kynett here in Philadelphia," O'Hara said. "It didn't dawn on one person that people would bring bananas."