When Sylvan Goldman owner of the Humpty Dumpty Supermarket Chain, invented the shopping cart back in 1937, he never could have imagined it would become the shopper’s best friend. Nor could he have foreseen shopping carts becoming eyesores and littering  neighborhoods, streets and highways.

Walt Mack

Walt Mack

Maybe you haven’t noticed but here in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, abandoned carts are ubiquitous. You can find them most anywhere–apartment complexes, recycle centers and wooded areas where the homeless hangout. Lost shopping carts are not only eyesores, but signs of urban decay.

Apartment dwellers who don’t own automobiles, often borrow the carts to haul groceries back to their homes–a one-way trip. And that’s where they accumulate like a shopping cart graveyard.  The homeless also have a certain affinity for carts which they use to transport trash, cardboard and other junk to their pads in the woods or under bridges.

Those sleek-looking carts don’t come cheap.  A single shopping cart can cost a Harris-Teeter, a Food Lion or a Trader Joe’s anywhere from $150 to $200.

Some grocery chains, like Aldi, are getting smart. They offer a rent-a-cart. Leave a deposit of a quarter and when the cart is returned, so is the quarter. It’s a simple system and I wonder why other chains don’t offer a similar deposit return for their customers. There’s another benefit to corralling those lost carts.  It avoids damage to cars caused by runaway carts.

Many cities and towns require store owners to retrieve their abandoned carts or face a fine. Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents can do their part by reporting the 3-dimensional graffiti to the grocery stores from whence they came.

— Walt Mack

abandoned shopping carts

Abandoned Shopping Carts (Photo by Walt Mack)



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