Now the grocery stores are punishing us for not buying anything

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There was a time, not so long ago, when using a basket or shopping cart for shopping was a simple gesture. And a low-tech too.

Last weekend I was shopping with my two children at a Price Chopper grocery store in Vermont, my 18 month old strapped into the baby seat of the cart (which keeps both their safety and my mental health while we shop). I was looking in the store for something specific; when Price Chopper didn’t have what I needed, I said, “No worries, we’ll just go to Hannaford down the street and get everything we need in one trip.” My eldest lamented having to go to another store, but overall no big deal.

Leaving the store, I walked towards the exit at normal speed, only my cart did not leave the store. It locked into place at the threshold, and because I was walking pretty fast, it rocked my 18 month old daughter in her seat. She wasn’t hurt, but that’s not something I would have done to her if I had known the cart was going to lock up. Why couldn’t I roll the cart to my car?

Unbeknownst to me, the store I’ve been shopping at for years has a new trick in its safety tool belt: locking wheels that prevent you from leaving the store with your shopping cart if you haven’t been through the checkout lane. I have known for a long time the caddies who lock when they reach the perimeter of a store’s parking lot– a way to stop people taking the carts themselves – but a cart that locked when exiting the store was new to me.

Why Stores Use Lockable Grocery Carts

These anti-theft grocery carts have been doing well across the country in recent years. WAFF48 in Huntsville, Alabama vaunted on the cart’s ability to prevent a man from leaving a store with what would have been $600 worth of unpurchased groceries. The report claims the man is a ‘repeat offender’, having successfully stolen shopping carts full of groceries before the incident with the locking cart.

KOIN6 in Portland, OR performed a feature on the trucks and their operation. In the video, an assistant manager at a Fred Meyer store in the Portland area explains that a sensor at the checkout counter acts as a “deactivator” and disables the cart’s locking mechanism. She says the cart needs to be in front of the sensor for about 30 seconds to turn off, or “about the time it takes to unload a cart.”

This is of course an imperfect system. What if you didn’t have 30 seconds worth of groceries to unload? The same KOIN6 video also shows an older woman, her groceries in bags, stopped in front of the door by the locks of the carts. The assistant manager rushes in with a remote electronic device to free the wheels, explaining, “It locks up after a while.” Translation: You took too long to get out of here.

Then there’s the problem of someone like me, who didn’t buy anything – because the store didn’t have what I needed – and got stuck at the door. An employee came to unlock my cart; although he didn’t ask me any questions, it stands to reason that if I had had plenty of reusable shopping bags with me (which we are encouraged to have at all times now), he may have searched them. Even if I had known that my cart was about to lock due to this technicality being left empty-handed, there was no way for me to return it to the outside cart corral without asking for help from an employee. This dodgy loss prevention system appears to give stores an opening to interview or even track down people who have done nothing wrong.

At Price Chopper, I used the cart mainly to push my baby. If there had been a sudden danger in this store – a naturally chaotic situation – the quickest way out would have been not to fumble with the buckles and straps, but to keep pushing her in the trolley out of the store. . Could I have? It may seem like a free guess, but I was evacuated from a target for a bomb threat, and as we are all painfully aware, shootings happen in grocery stores.

“Forget those lockable shopping carts,” you might be thinking, “I’m going to carry a hand basket instead.” It may not be so easy either. Fred Meyer, the same chain in the rave news segment on anti-theft carts, completely carried away the shopping baskets at its Portland premises in 2021, claiming the baskets were too often stolen. News from New Jersey and Connecticut this summer, grocers also denounced the theft of baskets, pointing to new laws banning plastic bags.

Robert Rybick, President and CEO of Geissler Supermarkets, Told the Hartford Current that the problem was so significant that the store had lost “65 to 70%” of its baskets and that it would discuss it at its next executive committee meeting. Mary Ellen Peppard, vice president of the New Jersey Food Council, said many stores did not plan to replace baskets once stolen.

“These baskets are expensive and some stores have decided not to replace the baskets,” Peppard said. Baskets would have cost about $8 each.

This, coupled with news earlier this year about ALDI and other retailers tightening safety measures on some grocery products, including putting meat behind glass, paints a bleak picture for the future of groceries. There appears to be very little publicly available data on whether such measures even prevent theft by a significant margin, especially when compared to the initial cost of implementing elaborate trolley blocking mechanisms. . Sure, loss prevention is a tough puzzle to solve, but every new innovation seems to degrade the shopping experience for all of us, including employees, who have to run around to free us from the threshold.

#grocery #stores #punishing #buying

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