Many retailers and communities struggle to contain wandering shopping carts. They end up abandoned in ditches, on city streets or on public or private property.
The city of Sault Ste. Marie takes on the problem, along with a councilman Matthew Shoemaker who hopes to solve the problem once and for all. He says it’s a constant problem in his department.
“They’re unsightly; often they’ll be filled with trash, if people bring them home, put their trash in them, and then push them out into the woods,” he said. There could also be a liability issue for the city or a retailer if someone is injured, involving a caddy.
Shoemaker says there is an area in town where there are at least five retail outlets and all of them have their own shopping carts. Customers leave the store with a basket to help them carry their purchases home, then abandon the basket.
“Whether in their own backyard, on the boulevard, on the sidewalk, on the side of the road, in a path, in a park, there’s never a shortage of places where they leave them,” Shoemaker said. “There have been reports of trolleys 10 to 12 kilometers from these stores, so they are traveling.”
Streamline recovery time
Under the new regulations, each retail store must submit a management plan for the recovery and return of abandoned carts found outside their property boundaries. This plan includes who to contact at the store if there is a complaint about an errant cart. They will have a set time to collect it.
“It can’t be once every three months,” Shoemaker said. “It has to be timely. It has to be a system where once they’re informed, a process is triggered that gets the cart off the boulevard, off the sidewalk, off private property.”
Most retailers already have some sort of collection process for baskets that have been removed from store property, but collection times are all different.
“What we’re trying to do is streamline the process.” Shoemaker said it will likely take between five and 10 days for retailers to pick up the cart. There could also be a fine for the store if the cart is not picked up within the time limit.
Two years to find a solution
It was November 2019, Shoemaker proposed a resolution after researching what other municipalities had done to reduce abandoned cart issues. The settlement was approved Monday evening.
“It took almost two years to present a draft regulation on the actual implementation of a correction or solution to the problem,” he said.
“I think having something in place is a better place to start than just complaining about it to the board over the last decade, which has happened in the past,” Shoemaker said.
One grocery store, Pino’s, says that in an average year, it loses about 25 carts worth about $200 each. The store management hires someone to pick up their abandoned carts.
The Sault Ste. Marie comes into effect in September.