Chris and The Pineapple Pretenders
How Christopher Columbus accidentally sparked a business opportunity
It was on a day just like this one in 1493 that Christopher Columbus tripped over something he had never seen before and set in motion the chain of events that led to a brand new industry.
The object he tripped over while on a business trip overseas (Guadeloupe) looked like a pine cone but was as sweet tasting as a Honeycrisp apple. Someone named it a pineapple. I’m not sure who, and frankly I don’t care. I’m not an actual historian. I just repeat stories I trip over.
But Chris knew a good thing when he saw it. Or in this case, tasted it. No one in Europe had ever seen or tasted it and he had to justify his expense account somehow. This was just the thing. So he snatched up a bunch of them, tossed them on the ship, and set sail for home.
Little did he know that he had just inspired a 15th century rental industry. Kinda like a rental car business. But since there were no cars, pineapples would do nicely until cars were actually invented.
You ask, why the hell would someone want to rent a pineapple? For the same reason people who can’t afford a Lexus rent one instead. To impress their friends, of course. They’re just pretenders.
But since Chris was better at spotting a good thing than preserving it on the trip home, only one pineapple made it to the King’s palate. He liked it. In fact he went wild for it. Therefore, anyone who wanted to pretend they were as rich as a king wanted one too.
In today’s money it would take about $8000 to buy a single pineapple once a few were successfully imported. So if you can’t afford to buy one, just go down to your pineapple rental agency and rent one for the night. You can throw a party and everyone can admire you and the pineapple, as long as they don’t try to eat it. You can even go to someone else’s party and carry it around with you to show off. Some did.
Of course that fad business was long dead before a guy named Dole figured out how to supply the world with the tasty fruits and flooded the market with them. Nowadays they ruin pizzas by putting them on top because there aren’t enough Pina Colada drinkers to soak up the excess inventory.
To celebrate the historical absurdity of the pineapple rental business just take a look around at almost any restaurant or nice hotel you visit to see if you can spot a picture of a pineapple on the wall or a wood carving of one. You will see one almost everywhere you look and then you can tell the owner how impressed you are with the pineapples. He or she won’t know what the heck you are talking about, but why would they? They probably rented the picture.
Editors note: This story is dedicated to my dear friend of 50 years, Jerry Vandenberg, who enjoyed reading these stories. He passed away last week and we shall miss him terribly.