Life In The Laugh Lane – May 2023

Same Same But Same

Once upon a time, long ago in Thailand, a sole banana seller set up shop on the street. His neighbor saw him and said, “I can do what he’s doing,” and set up shop next to him. The neighbor’s cousin saw them and said, “I can do what they’re doing,” and set up a third shop. The rest of the neighborhood did the same, with the same fresh bananas, selling them for the same price, stacking them in the same piles. Now they all have piles from sitting there everyday trying to sell exactly the same thing as their neighbors.

Asia is famous for and good at copying anything and everything, but I don’t understand the marketing strategy here. Do they think people go out shopping only for bananas? (Honey, we’ve got plenty of everything except bananas. Get over to Banana Row right away!”) Do they think their stalls are in the fresh banana addict neighborhood? (“I’ve got to have a bunch of bananas right now or I’ll go bananas!”) Doesn’t anyone consider selling anything else? (“I’ll sell ice cream for banana splits!” or “I’ll sell something that goes well with bananas like condoms!”)

On the highway from Chiangmai to Mae Sai, it’s the same situation. You pass Corn on the Cob Country with 10 identical stalls on both sides of the road, 50 yards apart—same price, same produce stacked the same, under the same color umbrellas. Then the Bamboo Shoot Strip. The Sugar Cane Area. The Fresh Strawberry Or Fruit Wine So Sweet It Makes Your Teeth Vibrate Department.

What are they thinking besides, “I can do what they’re doing?”

 “I want to get the first cars from the south.”

“I want to get the first cars from the north.”

“I want to get ‘em after they’ve seen the first stall, but can’t stop until the second.”

“I want to get ‘em after the car that tries to stop at the first stall is hit by the car that tries to stop for the second and both crash into the third.”

“I want the ones that buy some at the first stall, eat all of them and need more in 200 yards.”

“I only have three working brain cells.”


If you were in America, you’d take the middle stand and install big neon signs: “The Best Bananas in the World!” “Buy Now and Save!” “Installment Plans Available!” And, of course, “Topless Banana Bar!”

Instead of 5 baht, you’d sell them for 4 baht and 99 satang. You’d hire temporary workers to fling banana peels into the road by the end stands, so cars couldn’t stop until the middle. You’d need lawyers, accountants, middle managers, assistant assistants, strict schedules, timeline analyses, contingency plans and semi-quarterly budget review meetings.

That’s why I moved to Thailand.

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Scott Jones
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