WALLINGFORD, CT—Upending more than two centuries of free-market theory, leading economists across the globe announced Thursday that the fundamental principles of capitalism had been "irrefutably disproved" by the continued existence of the designer fruit-basket company Edible Arrangements.
According to experts, the Connecticut-based franchise, which arranges skewered pieces of fruit into displays vaguely resembling floral bouquets, has defied all modern economic models, expanding continuously for the past decade despite its complete lack of any discernible consumer appeal.
"In theory, the market should have done away with Edible Arrangements long ago," said American Economic Association president Orley Ashenfelter, who added that one of the crucial assumptions of capitalism is the idea that businesses producing undesired goods or services will fail. "That's how it's supposed to work. Yet somehow, despite offering no product of any worth whatsoever, this company not only makes payroll every week, but also generates strong profits."
"It's mind-boggling," Ashenfelter continued. "I honestly have never even heard the name Edible Arrangements mentioned in conversation before. Seriously, has anyone?"
Upon examining the so-called Edible Arrangements paradox, economists worldwide have abandoned many of the ideas that have dominated economic thought since the time of Adam Smith, arguing that the forces of supply and demand are powerless to explain the company's 45-piece line of officially licensed NASCAR-themed fruit bouquets.
"To understand this enigma, we must discard the naïve notion that free-market prices reflect what consumers are willing to pay," Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz said. "Otherwise, how else are we to rationalize the phenomenon of a human being willingly spending 84 bucks on 18 green apple wedges and a Mylar balloon?"
An unofficial survey conducted by Stiglitz found that not one of the AEA's 18,000 members had ever purchased or received an Edible Arrangement or knew of anyone who had, indicating that the franchise was operating in "some advanced realm of economics" in which the so-called profit motive no longer applied.
Even many of the nation's staunchest neoliberal economists, who have long advocated laissez-faire policies, acknowledged that the ideas of F.A. Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman cannot account for how Edible Arrangements operates from more than 1,000 locations in 13 countries, including Hong Kong, Italy, India, and Kuwait.
"Clearly the invisible hand has led us astray when it allows for the continued existence of a store that manufactures 'Sympathy Blossoms' of chocolate-dipped orange slices for funerals and wakes," said N. Gregory Mankiw, a former economic adviser to George W. Bush. "And when people are buying 3,000 'Orange You Gonna Feel Better Soon?' bouquets a day, the idea of consumers as 'rational actors' goes out the window pretty fast."
Harboring doubts that such a business could generate $200 million in annual revenue, the Department of Commerce last year launched an investigation into whether Edible Arrangements served as a front for some sort of illicit trade. Internal reports reveal agents uncovered nothing illegal, and were instead "absolutely stunned" to find real, functioning storefronts with paid employees, computers for tracking actual orders, and stockrooms packed with honeydew melon balls and pineapple slices cut into the shape of butterflies.
"It defies all logic," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said of the company's gift bouquets. "These things are like six pounds of cantaloupe—who could possibly eat that much? And they're already cut up, so you have to eat them quick or throw the whole thing out. For Christ's sake, Americans don't even eat fruit."
In spite of lingering bewilderment at the company's success, economists have reportedly pledged to work together to develop a new and more encompassing theory of global markets
"Right now, we just have to accept the fact that Edible Arrangements exists and is, somehow, a part of our current economic reality," said Ashenfelter, while perusing the company's online store. "Besides, my mom's birthday is coming up and, now that I'm seeing these, I think she might really like this one with the teddy bear on it."