Shopping cart

Shopping cart theft is a growing problem during the COVID pandemic in Fall River

FALL RIVER — Would you mind stealing our shopping carts?

That’s the sentiment of some local businesses.

Studies have shown that stealing these wheeled carts — and deliberately pushing a cart off a business’ premises technically constitutes theft — costs businesses nationwide millions of dollars every year.

In Fall River, there is even a local ordinance that deals exclusively with picking up and dropping shopping carts.

Environment Article III of Chapter 26 — which aims to eliminate a public nuisance and potential health and safety risks — exposes the owner of the cart to a possible fine and confiscation of the cart, in the event of abandonment of the cart. here on a city street or sidewalk.

The order, however, makes no reference to who takes the shopping cart.

A woman is seen here walking along Rodman Street in late winter using a shopping cart after visiting a local laundromat.

Article III states that the Director of the City’s Department of Community Maintenance, or designate, may authorize DCM personnel to collect and remove abandoned shopping carts.

Once a cart is brought to the DCM facility, an “Impound Notice” is mailed to the owner at the address listed on the cart.

Owners are required to “prominently and permanently affix” to each shopping cart the name, address and phone number of the store or business it comes from.

Owners are also required to post a shopping cart removal warning “at all public entrances and exits to the commercial establishment.”

If an owner does not respond within 30 days to the impoundment notice, then the DCM Manager may issue a $100 fine and dispose of the unclaimed cart.

It’s unclear how often the city collects abandoned shopping carts and sends notices to owners. A request for comment from DCM director John Perry was not returned.

Stop & Shop, however, has a program in place in Fall River to recover abandoned carts that have been illegally removed from a store’s property.

The company has two grocery stores in the city, one in the South End at 333 Mariano Bishop Blvd. and another at 501 Rodman St.

A pair of Stop & Shop trolleys are seen here near the corner of Plymouth Avenue and Fourth Street.

The Rodman Street store, which is close to neighborhoods on both sides of Plymouth Avenue consisting mostly of apartment buildings, is the reason Stop & Shop pays a service company to collect and recover abandoned carts.

“Walking customers are picking up carts from the Stop & Shop store at 501 Rodman St in Fall River,” a spokesperson said in an email.

“As a result, we are working with a third-party basket retrieval service to help collect baskets.”

The spokesperson said the service company sends out its employees three times a week to pick up “trolleys left in public areas … to ensure that our property is returned and that the trolleys do not create a nuisance in the community.” community”.

She was unable to provide information on the costs incurred by Stop & Shop to engage the third-party company.

But the spokesperson noted that the Rodman Street store “has seen an increase in the number of carts removed as the number of customers visiting the store has increased with the pandemic (COVID-19)”.

She said the occasional removal of baskets is not unusual for Stop & Shop stores located “in cities and residential areas where a higher than average number of customers walk to the store rather than drive”. .

This week, two of the store’s carts were seen being pushed into each other and left near the curb at the corner of Plymouth Avenue and Fourth Street, which is a nearly half-mile climb from the store.

In the past month, a reporter has also come across an abandoned Stop & Shop trolley left near the Murray Street train tracks in the north of the city, where there is no supermarket within walking distance.

Stop & Shop customer Melisa Hairstone had driven in from her Eagle Street home to run errands.

“There’s enough mess and trash in Fall River already,” she said.

A pair of mallards and a Stop & Shop shopping cart are seen here in the water next to the city's Quequechan River Rail Trail.

Hairstone said she recently saw an abandoned shopping cart, though she wasn’t sure if it was from Stop & Shop on Columbia Street not far from her home.

“What’s it doing here?” ” she says.

When reminded that International Earth Day fell this past Thursday, Hairstone expressed some sadness.

“It’s so sad that we leave this whole mess to our kids to clean up,” she said.

The Walgreens store and pharmacy at 369 Plymouth Ave. is on Kitty’s corner of the Rodman Street Stop & Shop. Other Walgreens in the city are located at North and South Main Streets, Rhode Island Avenue and Pleasant Street.

A spokesperson for Walgreens, in an email, said “although we have had cart thefts at some of our Fall River area locations, we have not seen a significant increase in thefts in all”.

Some businesses that provide shopping carts to customers use an electronic security system that uses sensors built into a store’s parking lot.

When a customer tries to push a cart past a certain point, the wheels automatically lock.

At least one chain store with a location in Fall River has found a low-tech remedy to stop any customer walking around with a shopping cart.

The shopping carts at the Fall River Savers store are equipped with tall metal rods that prevent them from being pushed out.

At the Savers thrift store inside the Fall Fiver mall on Mariano Bishop Boulevard, metal rods that protrude above the height of the entrance were attached to shopping carts.

Someone dumped this shopping cart from the Harbor Freight Tools store on Mariano Bishop Boulevard on the median near William S. Canning Boulevard and Lawton Street.

When a customer tries to push a shopping cart into the entrance, the rod hits the top of the door and prevents the shopping cart from passing.

A spokesperson for Savers Inc. did not return requests for comment regarding the use of the metal rod obstacle.