SkyscraperCity Forum banner
1 - 6 of 6 Posts

pooh bear
10,266 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Keeping grocery carts from straying

By Eric Moskowitz, Globe Staff | June 5, 2008

MEDFORD - Steve Honeycutt, whose car has twice been damaged by shopping carts, says he understands the risks that accompany parking in a supermarket lot. The thing is, his car has been hit by wayward shopping carts in front of his home in Medford, four blocks from the nearest supermarket.

"It's a problem," said Honeycutt, who told city officials it's time to do something about the abandoned carriages that dot Medford's neighborhoods and that some residents say are a blight on the landscape, in addition to being a hazard. The ones that hit Honeycutt's vehicle cracked a mirror and scratched and dented the car's exterior, damage he said cost several hundred dollars to repair.

City Councilor Michael J. Marks, who lives near the Wellington Circle shopping plazas, has proposed legislation to address the issue. When Marks first floated the idea last year, some councilors snickered, Marks said. But after studying the matter, Marks discovered that more than 100 carts could be gathered on Medford street corners, sidewalks, and back lots at any given time. He also learned that other cities have recognized the problem and tried to handle it through ordinances.

"It's a real community issue," said Marks, who chairs the council's subcommittee on licensing, which has asked the city solicitor to draft a cart ordinance for Medford. That draft could be ready for City Council review later this month, and Marks believes his fellow councilors will endorse the measure.

The ordinance, if approved, would require businesses with carts to use retention systems. That could mean high-tech signals and locking wheels, low-tech poles and obstacles, or no-tech deposit systems in which people pay to borrow carts while shopping. Other communities, such as Boston, Malden, and Somerville, have imposed ordinances that also allow local government to impound lost carts, charge for storage and recovery, and sell or destroy those unclaimed.

Marks said he's inclined to start with a retention mandate and is reluctant to add cart-collection to the list of city responsibilities.

Malden tried a different route, initially treating lost carts as trash to be collected, said Karen Anderson, the city's clerk. The Malden City Council also created a $25 fine for anyone who pushes a cart 100 feet from a store lot - above the little-enforced state law ordering fines or jail time for cart theft. Last year, the council added a requirement for stores to tag their carts, mandated retention systems, and created a fee schedule for collecting and impounding lost carts.

Anderson said the measures have been effective, though they prompted debate at the time, particularly about who should be responsible for lost carts and whether an ordinance would put a burden on elderly customers who walk off with carts so they can take their groceries home on foot. "You would not believe how controversial this was," she said.

Gracelaw Simmons, a Medford resident who has tracked the problem, said the ordinance Marks has in mind would be a start. But to be effective, she said, she believes the city should add a hotline to collect tips about missing carts and create a collection system. She also believes the problem will continue until the main cause - customers without cars taking groceries home - is addressed. Impoundment fees could defray the cost, she said.

On a recent week, Simmons counted 20 locations where carts were gathered, including some tucked-away spots where "a whole mountain of them" had collected, she said. She had noticed carts periodically over the years, but began paying attention last fall, after carts appeared on three of the four corners near her home, at the intersection of Salem and Otis streets.

Calls to store managers and to City Hall did little to address the problem, and one of the carts remained for six months, said Simmons, likening abandoned carts to graffiti and broken windows.

"You don't drive through a neighborhood and say, 'Isn't this lovely, there are no shopping carts?' " she said. "But when there are shopping carts, you don't say, 'Isn't this lovely?' "

Charles J. Napier, director of loss prevention and facilities for Johnnie's Foodmaster, said most supermarkets are already diligent about preventing cart theft and collecting missing carts, since new ones cost $100. His 11-store company would prefer to operate without an ordinance but would also appreciate a level playing field for all businesses, since some nonfood retailers with fewer carts are less vigilant about where their carts end up.

Foodmaster's Medford store is the company's prime culprit for missing carts. Contractors hired by the company can find three dozen missing Foodmaster carts a week in Medford. Stop & Shop reported a similar figure to the City Council. But many are lost for good.

Even without an ordinance, Foodmaster this month plans to install an underground system, similar to one used by the Medford Shaw's, to help preserve a consistent fleet of 200 carts. The underground electromagnetic wiring costs $18,000 to install, plus $11 per cart for wheel locks, Napier said.

But no system can totally thwart those insistent on removing carts, said Bud Sweetser, president of Woburn-based Cart Recovery Inc. His drivers roam seven days a week to collect wayward carts, particularly in densely populated areas such as Medford. The carts mostly end up concentrated at housing developments near supermarkets, but some drift in the wind and get moved by children walking home from school or ridden by teenagers.

"They're kind of like leaves. You rake them up, and then they fall and you have to do it again," said Sweetser, who started the business in the 1990s as a companion to his Carriage Trade Service Co. Inc., which supplies and repairs carts. "You'd virtually have to stay at the market all day to keep up with it."

And Sweetser's drivers pick up only carts they recognize and are paid to collect.

Marks said he hopes an ordinance can address the problem citywide.

This is not "the number one concern in the city of Medford," he said, but "it's a small piece of the puzzle when we're trying to keep our city looking good."


Cart it away

June 5, 2008

Medford officials are considering ways to prevent shopping carts from straying into neighborhoods. A few other municipalities have adopted ordinances in recent years:

Boston requires businesses with 20 or more carts to tag them and to use a wheel-locking system, physical barrier, or other method to discourage cart theft. The city can fine stores for violations and impound missing carts, charging for their return.

Malden has a similar ordinance.

Somerville initially enacted an ordinance requiring stores to tag carts and create cart-retrieval plans, then revised it to require stores to implement loss-prevention methods as well.

Sources: City ordinances

Medford is an inner suburb of Boston, it's very dense at 12,000 people/square mile (4,633.2259 people/square kilometer), so its pretty much like one of the urban neighborhoods of Boston city. Do you think abandoned shopping carts are a problem for urban environments? Or do you enjoy the quirkyness and character it brings to an area, even though it signals decay according to the "broken windows" theory?

spaghetti polonaise
2,607 Posts
Since most supermarkets in Germany introduced the deposit system (like 2 decades ago?), this problem virtually disappeared. Maybe the supermarkets in Medford should first try this "non-technology"-solution before applying more expensive alternatives.


Premium Member
20,680 Posts
I've always liked the deposit system. A bit of a pain as you have to ensure you have the correct coin on you when you go shopping, but other than that, it's pretty fool proof and generally stops people from stealing supermarket trolleys.

Some supermarkets in the UK had that system. I wish they'd use it in New Zealand as everyone in Auckland seems to be too lazy to push their trolleys back to the trolley bays and so just leave them in the car park for people to crash their cars into. :eek:hno:

6,117 Posts
Since most supermarkets in Germany introduced the deposit system (like 2 decades ago?), this problem practically disappeared. Maybe the supermarkets in Medford should first try this "non-technology"-solution before applying more expensive alternatives.

We use the same system in the Netherlands everywhere too. It works great.
1 - 6 of 6 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.