I once interviewed Luke, the manager of the neighborhood Hy-Vee supermarket for my afternoon public service radio show. One of the few memorable bits of information was the costs of shopping carts. Luke stated that they range in price from about $120 apiece for the small, “bi-level” carts, to a around $160 for an average shopping cart. Larger carts
can be had for around $200. Those specialty carts that resemble cars to entertain toddlers while their parents push them around the store can cost upwards of $400 or more.
Luke’s price quotes were for carts purchased in lots of 50 or more. The carts with printed plastic inserts for the store name cost a few dollars extra. The shopping carts are a major investment for the store.
There are plenty of hidden costs regarding shopping carts. They must be collected from the parking lot after customers wheel their purchases to their cars, so they must figure in the wages spent on employees who gather the carts and return them to the store. There is also maintenance, yes, some stores do clean and lubricate their carts.
Stores also must figure in “shrinkage”. The stores suffer outright theft of several shopping carts each year due to people taking carts home and not returning them. Sometimes the culprits are caught and convicted because of evidence provided by surveillance cameras around the store’s parking lot. There is also the problem of customers’ complaints about vehicle damage caused by shopping carts colliding with fenders.
Carts spend plenty of time outdoors until employees gather them. This means the wheels pick up dirt and moisture from the tarmac and bring contamination indoors. Extra time and effort is needed in order to clean and maintain the store’s floors. The flooring under the indoor cart storage area is especially difficult to maintain.
Sometimes I wonder about the shopping carts at big box stores like Costco. They have enormous carts. Each store probably has a thousand or more. Undoubtedly they cost more to purchase and maintain than regular supermarket carts.
When grocery shopping, I prefer the small, two-tiered carts instead of the large carts. In fact, I try to snag one from the parking lot because most of the others are in use. My shopping experience is enhanced when I’m able to use the small cart. They are the sports cars of the shopping cart world. Their small size enables me to maneuver past aisle-blockers chatting away on their cell-phones. I can zip through the store with ease when pushing the little two-tiered carts.
I wish the Target store had those little carts. Sometimes all I want to buy is some cat food and kitty litter for my sister’s cat. I hate pushing the huge red plastic Target carts around the store while shopping for bargains.
Then there is cleanliness to think about. I wonder how many people have held onto each shopping cart handle. Although I’m not a germaphobe, I do wipe the handles with pre-moistened wiping towelettes provided by the store. The local store’s supply never runs out. Of course, most people don’t bother to clean shopping cart handles. If you don’t want to get sick, be sure to wipe down the cart.
I know my life is pretty good when I get a shopping cart that travels smoothly across the floor. I used to encounter carts with a shaky wheel or one that jams. I still get carts that have something stuck to a wheel; those carts that make the clunk-clunk noise when they’re pushed. Usually, big carts have that fault.
All things considered, I’m thankful there are shopping carts. They make life better.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes close-up playing-card illusionist, Richard Turner. “Anytime I see someone blocking the aisle in the supermarket while talking on a phone, I want to ram that person with my shopping cart.”