Clear the streets of shopping carts – it’s possible | My opinion
You see them everywhere in Santa Fe. At the crossroads. At bus stops. In medians. On the sidewalks. In the parks. In arroyos. In the parking lots. Sometimes they are alone. Sometimes they gather by the dozen. Usually they are standing. But sometimes they are lying on the ground looking sad and desperate.
You might have guessed that I’m talking about misplaced shopping carts. The city of Santa Fe spends thousands of dollars each year picking up misplaced shopping carts, possibly tens of thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, the stores that the shopping carts come from are wasting thousands of dollars a year on carts that never return to the stores.
In the United States, dozens of cities are grappling with this problem and many have implemented plans to deal with it. Many cities now require stores that provide shopping carts to have a shopping cart retention plan. Such plans can involve a variety of strategies.
A common strategy is to ask customers to pay a small deposit to use a shopping cart. A mechanical vending system that accepts cash or cards may charge a dollar or a few dollars before releasing a cart. The money is returned to the customer when the basket is returned. If the customer doesn’t return the cart, you can be sure someone else will, if only to collect the cash reward.
Another cart retention policy involves a physical system of gates located at exits of stores or just outside exits so that carts cannot leave the store or a loading area just outside the store. Customers must then transport their groceries from the exit area of the store to their vehicle. Or, if they prefer, they can move their vehicle closer to the store’s exit area for loading.
Some stores in other cities have equipped their shopping carts with electronic locking systems that are supposed to prevent the wheels from rolling if someone attempts to roll the shopping carts past a certain point, such as the edge of the parking lot.
A common strategy used by many cities is to require shopping carts to have the store name, address and phone number affixed to each cart. This makes it easier for carts to be returned to the correct store, and in some cases may also allow for fines to be imposed on stores that do not maintain control of their baskets. It also makes it easier for passers-by to contact the store to report a temperamental cart.
Currently, picking up lost caddies is a cost to the city. But with the right plan in place, misplaced shopping carts could be an opportunity to make money for the city. Imagine a system where the city picked up misplaced carts and stored them in a safe place (not in someone’s backyard!). Then the city could resell them to the stores they came from at a reasonable price, or simply fine the stores for each cart not collected in the storage area by a certain date.
Like graffiti, trash, and weeds, misplaced shopping carts are an eyesore, lower property values, and make Santa Fe a less pleasant place to live. Fortunately, solving the shopping cart problem is easy compared to other problems. Solving the shopping cart problem just requires a little effort on the part of the city. There is an old saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. It is high time to stop doing the same and put an end to the shopping cart problem once and for all.
Dan Frazier is a small business owner who has lived in South Santa Fe for about five years.