Grocers Put Brakes on Cart-napping

Mar 21, 2002

A shopping cart anti-theft device, which stores have been testing for months, is ready to go statewide. The system includes an underground cable, which surrounds the perimeter of a supermarket’s property. When a cart comes within two feet of the boundary, a sensor triggers the right front wheel to lock. Only a special gadget can release the hold on the wheel. The system costs from $8,000 to $30,000, depending on store size, according to manufacturer, Gatekeeper Systems.

“It has helped us tremendously,” says Publix Super Markets spokesman Lee Brunson. Last year, the grocery-store chain tested the device at a location in Miami Beach, where about 100 carts vanish a month. The store’s manager rented a U-Haul truck every two days to round up abandoned carts — many of them too damaged to use. Publix has equipped four more stores in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The chain is looking into placing it in other stores around Florida where theft rates of run high.

Winn-Dixie is also testing the device in a few locations in the Orlando area. “It’s an expensive solution to a problem we’ve had in the industry for a long time,” says company spokesman Mickey Clerc. The main problem — shoppers don’t view cart theft as a crime. “We did everything we could to educate people that it’s against the law. But people still don’t think there is anything wrong with it,” adds Clerc.

One basket vanishes every 90 seconds, according to industry estimates. They end up as suitcases for vagabonds, go-carts for kids, car-to-elevator transportation for condo dwellers, and cookout grills for beach-goers. At $100 per cart, thefts cost the industry millions of dollars a year.

Moderator Comment: Should stores actively prosecute
shopping cart (trolley to some) thieves?

In most cases, sadly, this probably needs to happen for
the message to get across. If the thief is a homeless or otherwise down and
outer, however, giving them a job rounding up carts might be the path to take.
Anderson – Moderator

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