The Gringo Shopping Patrol.

There’s an interesting phenomenon happening in our city. Go into any Latin market and you’ll see gringos filling their shopping carts with fresh produce. If you look closely, you’ll notice these places aren’t selling the best fruit and vegetables you’ve ever seen. The oranges are not pristine and the apples are a little undersized. And don’t get me started about the bananas. But no matter, there are mounds of nearly every kind of fruit and vegetables stacked semi-neatly in massive, over-sized bins, and the newest customers to these relatively new grocery stores are loading up and lining up at the cash register.

The reason for the gringo shopping spree? It’s pretty simple — the prices are better. In fact, they are way better; drastically better.

And who doesn’t love that?

I really can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but what’s happening actually does fall into the much-overstated, “if you build it, they will come,” philosophy. Only this time, it’s more like this: If-you-get-extraordinary-pricing-at-the-wholesale-fruit-markets-in-Los Angeles-and-ship-it-inland-they-will-come. And come they will, with purses full of cash.

(Sorry. Just used up my supply of short dashes.)

What’s more, the people that are shopping at these markets are the newly-retired blue hair group. (My mother and mother-in-law included.) These are the same folks that had a come-apart the first time a billboard in Spanish appeared overnight in their town. Nor did they know what to do — other than gasp — when they figured out for the very first time that they were going to have to start coming up with a little Spanglish to order a Filet ‘O Fish.

But here they are, buying fruit and working their way through the checkout line with the greatest skill and polished shopping expertise. ¿Puedo comprar un kilo de naranjas, por favor ?

Talk about rolling out the welcome mat! A few years ago, the influx of Spanish speakers was unsettling, but now these shoppers don’t know how they would survive without the cheap bananas or inexpensive limes sold by the bushel.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then firing up your Toyota Camry, driving across town and walking into a Mexican mercado for cut-rate prices on produce at a place where you really are the oddity, seems to be today’s true-to-life expression of that sentiment.

So, here’s the thing: Watching this developing saga reminds me that people still make decisions to be proactive — even wildly proactive — if the benefits are high enough. Raise the price on meat just a little more and watch these shoppers, as well as a host of other new shoppers, start buying half-priced hamburger at the tienda around the corner.

If you’re in business, never forget that when the offer is right, people — even unlikely people — will find their way to your doorstep. And you’d better be ready when they come, because likely as not, they’re gonna buy all your oranges.

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