Abandoned shopping carts cost taxpayers thousands of dollars

New York

Santa Fe, New Mexico, I paid a local contractor $47,000 to move about 3,000 shopping carts around town in 2021 and 2022.

Fayetteville, North Carolina spent $78,468 Collecting gigs From May 2020 to October 2022.

Shopping carts continue to drive away from their stores, draining taxpayer coffers, causing blight and frustrating local officials and retailers.

Abandoned shopping carts are a disaster for neighborhoods, as stray carts clog intersections, sidewalks, and bus stops. They occupy handicap spots in parking lots and end up in streams, ditches, and gardens. It clogs municipal waste and septic systems cause accidents.

There is no national data on shopping cart losses, but U.S. retailers lose an estimated tens of millions of dollars each year replacing lost and damaged shopping carts, shopping cart experts say. They pay sellers to rescue stray carts and fork over fines to municipalities for breaking laws about shopping carts. They also lose sales if there are not enough shopping carts for customers during peak shopping hours.

Last year Wal-Mart paid $23,000 in fines related to abandoned shopping carts to the small town of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, said Sean McDonald, a city council member.

Dartmouth public service workers spent two years occupying more than 100 Wal-Mart carts scattered around the city and housing them in one of the city’s storage facilities. When Wal-Mart applied for a new building permit, McDonald said, the company was told it had to pay thousands of dollars in daily storage fees to the town.

“It’s a safety issue with these buggies going downhill. I left one on the road while I was driving,” he said. “It got to the point where I got pissed off.”

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more municipalities All over the country they are proposing laws to clamp down on stray gigs. They levy retailers fines for abandoned carts and fees for recall services, as well as mandates stores to lock up their carts or install systems to contain them. Some localities also fine people who remove carts from stores.

The city council in Ogden, Utah, this month approved a law fining people who take shopping carts or who own one. The measure also allows the city to charge retailers $2 per day for storage and handling fees to recover lost carts.

“Abandoned shopping carts are becoming a growing nuisance on public and private property across the city,” the council said He said In his summary of the bill. City officials “spend a great deal of time picking up carts and returning them or disposing of them.”

Lost carts are a growing problem, said Matthew Dodson, president of Retail Marketing Services, which provides cart recovery, maintenance and other services to major retailers in many western states.

During the busy holiday season in 2022, the retail marketing service rented extra carts to retailers, and took back 91% of about 2,000 carts, down from 96% a year earlier.

Dodson and others in the shopping cart industry say the increase in lost shopping carts can be attributed to several factors, including unoccupied people using them to hold them. belongings or as a shelter. increasing homelessness In many major cities due to skyrocketing housing prices, Lack of affordable housing, and other factors. There have also been accidents of people vans theft for scrap metal.

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Some people, especially in cities, use supermarket carts to bring groceries home from the store. Other wagons drift away from parking lots if they are not closed during inclement weather or at night.

to confirm a problem Stray shopping carts Not new. They began leaving stores soon after their introduction in the late 1930s.

The New York Times warned in 1962: “There is a new danger to the safety of motorists in convenience stores.” Article. “It’s a shopping cart.” Another New York Times article in 1957 titled the “Cart-Napping” trend.

There’s even a book, “Stray Shopping Carts in Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification,” dedicated to the phenomenon and an identification system for stray shopping carts, like birdwatching guides.

The misuse of everyday items such as shopping carts is an example of “perverted ingenuity,” said Edward Tenner, a senior research fellow at the Smithsonian Institution’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.

It is similar to the talapia fishermen in Malaysia Public phone theft In the 1990s, they attached receivers to powerful batteries that squeaked to attract fish.

Tinner hypothesized that people take shopping carts from stores because they are so diverse and unavailable elsewhere: “There really is no legitimate way for an individual to purchase a supermarket-grade shopping cart”.

Supermarkets can hold 200 to 300 shopping trolleys per store, while big box chains carry up to 800 trolleys. Depending on the size and model, the carts cost up to $250, said Alex Poulos, director of sales for RW Rogers, which supplies carts and other equipment for the stores.

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Stores and cart makers over the years have increased the size of carts to encourage shoppers to purchase more items.

Stores have introduced many cart safety and theft prevention measures over the years, such as cart pens and, more recently, wheels that lock automatically if the cart is too far from the store. (Viral videos on TikTok show Target customers struggle to push carts with wheel locks.)

Gatekeeper Systems, which provides trolley control procedures for the nation’s largest retailers, said demand for “SmartWheel” radio-frequency locks has increased during the pandemic.

in Four storesWegmans uses Gatekeeper wheel locks.

“The cost of replacing carts plus the cost of locating lost carts and returning them to the store led to our decision to implement the technology,” said a Wegmans spokesperson.

Aldi, the German grocery chain This is expanding rapidly In the US, it is one of the few US retailers to require customers to make a quarter deposit to open a shopping cart.

Coin-lock shopping cart systems are very popular in Europe, and Poulos said more American companies are ordering coin-lock systems in response to runaway shopping cart costs.

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