It isn’t unusual to discover shopping carts scattered far away from the store to which they belong. Oftentimes the carts are found collecting around bus stops, neighborhood entrances, and sometimes even pushed into washes. It is assumed the carts are being used to move purchased goods from a store location closer to a buyer’s residence. But when the cart is removed from store property, it presents some challenges that often are not considered.
Cart removal puts retail stores in a bad position for several reasons. First, the theft is a property loss for the store. According to Pam Giannonatti of Fry’s Food Stores, “Each shopping cart costs approximately $200.” The loss of several carts can be quite expensive for a retailer to replace.
Second, by state law, the retailer is the one responsible for retrieving the abandoned carts that have been removed from store property. For stores, this becomes a time and monetary expense to recover the carts. The retailer has to pay fees to cart recovery businesses for collecting and returning their property.
Third, abandoned carts quickly become an eyesore in collection points off premises throughout our community. Stores do not want their branded carts abandoned only to have their store names highlighted on the sides of that cart. It gives the impression that the store doesn’t care about area beautification.
Retail stores relying on the law to counteract carts thefts are not having the desired effect. “Removing a cart from the premises is a misdemeanor crime,” said Deputy Gross of the Pima County Sheriff Office. According to state law, a person can be charged for removing or being in possession of a shopping cart. Although the law is clear about cart theft being a misdemeanor crime, it isn’t clear how many have been charged. Deputy Gross added, “(The county) responds to around 20-25 general theft calls per day to retail stores.” The county does not break down into detail the number of misdemeanor charges for shoplifting vs cart theft, but the general feeling was the number of police responses for cart theft was very few or none at all. The Tucson Police Department was contacted to determine how many citations were issued for cart theft and they did not provide an answer.
As a result of sparse enforcement, retailers have had to enact programs on their own to keep carts on premises. Most Ross and Dollar Tree stores have installed telescoping vertical poles that restrict the carts from leaving the inside of their stores. Aldi Food stores instituted a refundable monetary deposit lock system if shoppers return their carts. At many Safeway and Fry’s grocery store locations in Tucson, they have installed an expensive parking lot perimeter wheel lock system that will lock the wheels of the cart if the cart is attempted to be moved off property.
The City of Tucson has an active retail cart recovery program. A Tucson city official described the process of recovering abandoned carts, “People will notify us that a cart has been abandoned. We will ask for the exact location of the cart and also ask which retailer the cart belongs to. The carts will be picked up by the city within 2 days of being reported.”
In the city of Tucson, if you see carts that require pickup off of store property, then you are encouraged to call (520)791-3171 and select option 6 to speak to a representative.