The Case of the Abandoned Shopping Carts
The city of Moreno Valley in California is just one of many in recent years that has been exploring what to do about abandoned shopping carts that many see as a blight on their communities. With budgets tight, many municipalities are looking for retailers to cover the costs of their retrieval.
Given that shopping carts cost between $100 to $250, some stores have their own retrieval service. But recovery shortfalls appear to fall on local towns.
According to The Press-Enterprise, Moreno Valley’s planning committee came up with five options for stores after reviewing how 10 local cities handle wayward carts:
Install stainless steel posts as a barrier to prevent carts from leaving the premises;
Install wheel-locking devices that stop carts once they leave the store’s parking lot;
Install coin-operated cart machines that require customers to pay a deposit to use a cart and provide a refund upon its return;
Use associates to help patrons carry purchases to their vehicles;
Hire security guards to patrol parking lots to prevent cart removal.
The city wound up passing an ordinance requiring stores to install anti-theft devices on shopping carts. Depending on the number of shopping carts, it will cost about $50,000 per store to install anti-theft locking devices on the carts, a city official told The Press-Enterprise. The requirements only apply to “future” supermarkets, or those that change hands, because of officials’ fears existing retailers would exit the city given the added expense.
Stores will be required to hire their own retrieval service to patrol within a mile of their locations. Signs must be posted warning of unlawful removal. A $50 impound fee will be charged for those failing to round up missing carts.
Other cities have avoided the technology requirements. The city of Alhambra in California simply fines a retailer $100 for any abandoned cart found. In Virginia Beach, city inspectors alert stores if a cart is found on public property and takes it to a landfill if not retrieved by the store within 48 hours.
At the same time, municipalities and stores in many areas are grappling with how to appease customers without cars who depend on the carts to bring items home.
Richard Stewart, the mayor of Moreno Valley, told The Press-Enterprise that voluntary compliance by retailers and goodwill didn’t solve the issue. He said none of the local stores prosecuted customers who took home carts for fear of losing their patronage.
Moreno Valley: City OK’s shopping cart rules – The Press-Enterprise
City of Alhambra Shopping Cart Code – City of Alhambra
Virginia Beach Abandoned Cart Policy – Virginia Beach Government
Committee formed to deal with abandoned shopping carts – ithaca.com
El Cajon aims to clean up ditched shopping carts – U-T San Diego