Getting Tough on Shopping Cart Crime

Discussion
Apr 25, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

City officials in Rialto, Cal. want shopping cart thieves to know that crime doesn’t pay, but it sure can cost you if you’re caught with a store’s property off the lot.

People walking off with shopping carts had become a real problem for retailers having to pay for replacements. The community didn’t think they did much for Rialto’s appearance and removing the carts cost Rialto time and money. There were also concerns about safety issues with carts winding up in the street.

Sgt. Craig Crispin, Rialto’s code enforcement supervisor, told the San Bernadino Sun, “We were getting a whole lot of citizens calling, upset about shopping carts at bus stops and high-density multiunit housing areas. People have had it.”

As a result, Rialto passed an ordinance aimed at hitting shopping cart thieves right in the wallet. Getting caught with a shopping cart off a store’s lot will cost you $150.

The town charges merchants $26 for every shopping cart recovered plus a $5 a day storage fee.

Merchants, say officials in the program are happy to pay the fees to recover carts and less carts are being taken because of the high cost of borrowing one.

Officer Dave Hernandez is charged with enforcing the shopping cart code. Since he began issuing summons in January, Officer Hernandez said he’s gone from handing out 10 or more a week to just one or two.

Moderator’s Comment: How big an issue is shopping cart theft for the retailing industry? Do you agree with Rialto’s approach to solving the problem?
Aren’t retailers being required to pay for recovered stolen goods?

George Anderson – Moderator

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6 Comments on "Getting Tough on Shopping Cart Crime"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

In the main, two kinds of folks steal carts (excluding kids): people who are walking their groceries home and indigents. Now, indigents don’t have the money to pay the fines, which means they’ll get arrested which means the community will pay even more to house them, feed them, clothe them and see to their medical needs. As for those customers who can’t get their groceries home, JAX Markets in Anaheim and lots of other retailers have found that offering customers pick up and drop off bus service builds loyalty and saves a fortune in carts.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

I think Rialto has pretty much solved the problem, and good for them. As for the retailers having to pay to recover stolen goods, that’s unfair. But perhaps they can deduct a “shopping cart return fee” off-invoice from the manufacturer, around $52 apiece.

Ron Margulis
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

It’s not just a theft issue, but also touches on food safety and public image issue. In terms of food safety, I know I wouldn’t want to even touch a cart that had previously been used to collect cans or haul a homeless person’s effects. Think about your cart hitting a car a mile away from the store, or seeing your cart in a bad part of town, and you get the picture of why there is a public image issue.

We used to do work for a company that has a great solution to this problem — Carttronics (www.carttronics.com). Gatekeeper is another vendor in the space.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
15 years 10 months ago

I’m not sure if this is the perfect solution, but they are doing something and it looks like it is working. I commend them for taking action and not just living with the problem. If this proves to be very unfair, they will likely pass some modifications based on their new experiences under this legislation. It will be interesting for the rest of us to learn from their attack on this issue.

Tom Zatina
Guest
Tom Zatina
15 years 10 months ago

It is a significant issue and I agree with the approach. It is an appropriate measure when nothing else works.

James Tenser
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

It’s OK for the Rialto, CA municipality to discourage cart borrowers using fines, but most carts are simply abandoned, so who actually gets cited? Sounds like street-vendors mainly.

I was amazed to learn that the problem is so significant that there is a California Shopping Cart Retrieval Service that exists solely to return carts to their rightful retailers.

When any city enforcement officer or private citizen spots a misplaced cart, he or she should be empowered to report its location via a toll-free number so the Retrieval Service can pick it up.

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