Shopping cart

Why not charge for the use of a basket, to be reimbursed when the customer returns it?

Regarding the column of your Freddy[[[[“Dr. Savoir: where are all the shopping baskets at Fred Meyer’s?” WWOctober 6, 2021): Why not charge for the use of a cart (say, a dollar), to be reimbursed when the customer returns it? Rounding up carts that left the scene would also earn you a dollar each. —Stuart H.

My first urge upon reading your letter, Stuart, was to hit you with a banana pie and write “big head” on your forehead for not knowing the difference between a basket and a shopping cart. But that was before I saw the avalanche of letters inspired by this column.

It was a small avalanche – six responses – but pretty impressive considering most of my fans can’t read. At least 50% (do the math) assumed I wasn’t talking about plastic baskets with handles, but metal cages with wheels, like the one I’m going to live in when I retire.

To be clear: there are still a lot of CHARIOTS at Fred Meyer. As brutal as the last year has been, you’re unlikely to have to use your physical arms to haul bags of frozen entrees to your car like some sort of caveman. We are not animals.

Anyway, while we’re talking about shopping carts, I guess I can try—and damn it—to answer your question. You’re not wrong to say that getting these carts off the property is a major headache for grocery chains. Not only are they expensive to replace — $250 is pretty average — but some jurisdictions impose fines on stores that don’t pick up abandoned ones.

Every few years, some US grocery stores will experiment with a deposit/refund system, with limited (read: zero) success. However, Germany-based discount chain Aldi uses a coin-operated system — think of those airport luggage carts — in its US stores.

That’s not so much to discourage theft, though, as to allow the famous penny-pinching chain (it claims to beat Walmart prices by 42%) to avoid paying someone to retrieve carts from the parking lot. . Apparently the 25 cent deposit – yes, a quarter – is enough to convince thrifty customers to return the carts themselves.

You can witness this triumph of Teutonic frugality for yourself, provided you’re willing to drive to the nearest Aldi location: Fresno. Still, for the kind of stingy who walks a mile to save a quarter, it might be worth the trip.

Questions? Send them to [email protected]