Shopping cart detective is on the job
Grocery carts designed to travel to customers’ vehicles often get taken for unauthorized field trips off store premises.
Technically, it’s a crime. Practically, it’s an expensive inconvenience for major stores that hire shopping-cart retrieval services.
“If they didn’t contract out to have these carts picked up, they’d be calling the cops,” South Lake Tahoe Police Department spokesman Chuck Owens said.
Taking a cart could be considered petty theft but arrests are rare, Owens said. To store management, though, missing carts represent serious business.
“Every one that goes off the property is a potential loss,” Raley’s “Y” Manager Allan Wells said of his $150 carts. He orders about 60 lost or damaged carts a year on the average from the corporate office.
“You find them all over town,” Wells said.
The missing carts have turned into a business for a Raley’s Stateline employee. Drew D’anneo, who keeps a daily log of his load, retrieves between 20 to 35 carts a day for both Raley’s locations. Some are picked up as a result of a toll-free number printed on the cart seat flap.
Like a detective, D’anneo has South Lake Tahoe wired, poking around an area west of Raley’s in the Crescent V Shopping Center routinely.
He recently found one all the way up at the California Base Lodge at Heavenly.
“No one likes carts sitting around the street,” Safeway Manager Bob Vukobradovich said, adding the store experiences a certain amount of turnover on lost or damaged carts.
Ditto, said Bob Gienapp of Albertson’s – especially snowplow drivers who have to get out of their rigs to move them in the winter.
It’s the summer when the carts are taken off the lots the most though, Gienapp indicated. He estimated the store loses 15 to 20 a month.
“Most people don’t think about this kind of thing,” he said.
Maybe some people think it’s no big deal, but not Gwen Mitchell of La Crescenta, Calif.
“I always take mine back (to the front of the store),” she said of the carts she uses. “I think it’s rude not to.”
One day, Mitchell witnessed a woman who allowed a cart to crash into a vehicle in a parking lot. Ever since then, she makes the extra effort to return them to the store.
“That kind of inspired me to always do it,” she said, as her male companion walked the cart to Albertson’s front door.
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