photo-5It’s amazing what we get used to and assume is normal not just for us but for everyone.

I live in a rather populated section of the city, so there are several supermarkets/grocers in my neighborhood. Of the closest, three are on the smaller size and one is quite large. I usually go to the larger one. During my last visit there, as I was returning my shopping cart to the stall, an elderly couple was standing there grumbling about something and looking rather confused. photo-2

I greeted them and they watched me with interest as I slid the front of my cart into the back of one already in the stall. And then they watched me with more interest as I popped the ‘key’ from the cart in front of mine into the slot in my cart’s handle in order to retrieve the quarter I had to pay as a refundable rental fee for the cart.

Their expressions went from confused to completely aghast. It seems they had just returned from spending several years in Florida and had never seen the contraption our grocer had set up for the shopping carts and had never considered the notion of paying for one.

photo-4It’s normal here now but it wasn’t normal here about a decade ago.

I remember when I first saw the carts all chained together. I thought, for sure, we were not permitted to use them, but I couldn’t fathom why. Annoyance soon replaced confusion however when I realized I – and all shoppers – had to have quarters at the ready so we could borrow a shopping cart.

Of course, this process of paying forced people to return those carts to the stalls rather than leave them scattered around the parking lot since the only way to get your quarter back was to chain your cart to another. It also prevented people from taking the carts home with them. And you might be surprised by how many people did just that. Some didn’t have cars so they walked their groceries home in the same cart in which they purchased them. Others used them as aides to deliver newspapers or collect nickel return recyclables from other people’s trash. And still others did it just to be wise guys and then they’d leave carts around the neighborhood in all sorts of places – like abused mutilated bodies or failed art exhibits. I guess the description depends on your point of view… photo-1

About the couple from Florida… I showed them how they, too, could gain the prize of a shopping cart, explaining how to use the key to plunge the quarter in fully in order to disengage the cart holding it in line. I laughed when the women muttered something I know I muttered when I first saw these things years ago, “What a stupid idea. Who thought of this?”

I just hope they remembered how to get their quarter back once they finished with the cart.

What about you? Do your grocers make you pay for a shopping cart? Are there other inconveniences or oddities in your area that you once thought were universal then learned were unique?

14 Responses to Rent-a-Cart

  • What an absolutely nutty thing. If my local supermarket instituted such a practice, I would shop elsewhere. Don’t they realize that you are doing them a favor by shopping at their store and using the cart so that you can buy more stuff than you could carry in your hands?

    If they are really distressed by the carts left around the parking lot, I would suggest they try something I have seen in other parts of the country: Hire kids to push the cart to your car and load the groceries in the trunk. Then the kid takes the cart back to the store for the next customer.

    Whatever happened to the notion of customer service?

    • What a great idea, Jane. That would address so many issues including giving kids something to do and allowing them to make a few bucks.

      About customer service – it’s sad but I find that when I’m greeted by a cheerful and courteous employee, I’m rather surprised. I think very few people are happy with their jobs – or they’re working more than one and are simply exhausted. At least that’s how it seems to me.

      Good news is if you return the cart you get your quarter back. lol

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • I have never heard of that. I can see their point. I hate coming out from shopping and having to move a cart that was inconsiderately left there by some lazy customer. And who hasn’t watched , on a windy day, carts sailing through the parking lot only to hit unsuspecting cars. But to put this contraption on the cart, I think is a bit much. Well, like you said , at least you get your quater back.

    • What I find most peculiar about this is how the other supermarkets in the area have standard shopping carts – without the coin contraption. There aren’t issues with those stores, as far as I can tell, so why here? Who knows. I’m used to it now and only question it when other people are first introduced to it. I just might have to make a call to find out the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of it all. 🙂

  • If theft of the shopping carts is a concern, then I’d imagine paying a quarter wouldn’t be enough to stop that practice. Our area used to hire kids to return the shopping carts to the store from the parking lot but now older people are the ones with those jobs. Says a lot about our economy, doesn’t it?

    • Believe it or not, loss of that quarter pisses off a lot of people. They’ll travel across the parking lot – or back into the store if they have to – in order to get it back. For many, the thought seems to be – why should a huge corporation like Waldbaums get MY measly 25 cents?

      Interesting how older people are now returning the carts when kids used to. I wonder if the reason behind that is the economy or the ‘pride’ of kids who feel they’re too good for that type of job… or maybe it’s both.

  • Here’s the thing… human beings are lazy and self-centered animals. If getting back a quarter encourages behavior we SHOULD BE DOING, like returning carts to marked stalls so that they don’t ding people’s cars, I’m happy to do it.

    But, now that I think of it, I haven’t seen cart rentals since Price Club first opened.

    • When it comes to the average person, I agree, Patty, but then I think of the older shoppers who have a hard enough time getting from their parking spot to the front door. It’s not easy for them to get the carts back across the lot to the stalls so they can get their quarter back. And as I mentioned to Donna, above, other stores in the area don’t have this restriction. Very strange. Color me confused. 😕

  • I saw these in a few places (darned if I remember where) and I’m so glad it didn’t catch on. Mostly because I couldn’t figure out how to use the silly thing.

    Here, they have kids collect the carts or folks who have learning disabilities, even though they have corrals for the carts. I swear I’m the only one around here who actually returns them, but I need the exercise 🙂

    • What’s worse is they update the units every so often and we have to figure out how to work them all over again. I know some people – like you 😉 – would return them to their proper place, but many would leave them around the lot – especially in poor weather. But still…

  • I remember a number of years ago when Costco (I believe) instituted this policy at its stores out here in Suffolk County. As I recall they were sued a couple of months later and took all the little quarter thingamabobbies off the carts and have been thingamabobby free ever since. I guess that didn’t apply to points west. I admit I never returned the carts when I was hauling littlin’s around in strollers and such, but I always return the carts now. And usually there is someone getting out of their car to asks me if they can have the cart so I rarely have to walk all the way back to the corral – yeehaw!

    • They were sued for this? What could they have been sued for? They’re not keeping the quarters, they are refunded… once you bring the cart back. Hmm. Interesting. You have piqued my curiosity, Gwen. I will have to look into this… There may be another blog in it. 🙂

  • In France their chained together and the only way to get one is to put a coin in a slot to disconnect. You get your coin back once you return it to the stall and reconnect with the cart in front. They tested it at several places in the States but it didn’t do to well. I always return the cart just to make sure it doesn’t roll away and hit other cars.

    • Yes! That’s exactly what this is. I rarely see it beyond my local market. I feel badly for the elderly who have to figure these things out. They have enough difficulty navigating the parking lot… but at least a huge stash of carts are kept in the store’s foyer now… So, this started in France, huh? 😉
      Thanks for coming by, Rebecca!

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