In the burbs, I had never given it a thought that in urban settings, stolen shopping carts are a big deal and have been for a long time. In 1969 a Chicago supermarket owner Anthony Dinolfo was so enraged by the volume of stolen shopping carts popping up in places like rivers, auto repair shops, and people’s basements that he deemed February the month to “Return Shopping Carts to the Supper Market.”
This problem has led to “locked shopping carts.” If you have never experience one of these – read carefully so you won’t look like an idiot trying to get out of a grocery store. I recently went grocery shopping at a newly opened Walmart in Lake View- not my usual place for groceries, but I was there to pick up a window air conditioner I got at a great price. I had no idea they sold groceries until I went inside after parking on the rooftop. I bought some groceries and my AC and asked for help to get the heavy AC to my car. The service clerk summoned a helpful worker and told me to just follow him. He picked up the AC box and went on the ramp to the elevator for the parking lot. I dutifully followed, but at the start of the ramp, my shopping cart stopped moving. Thinking the wheels were stuck on something, I just kept pushing trying to move the cart forward.
The guy with my AC was laughing and shouted “Get the service clerk so she can scan me.” I had no idea why I would need to be scanned so I kept pushing. Soon a pack of blueberries somehow opened in my cart and were spilling out on the ramp – what a mess!
A smiling clerk shaking her head appeared with what looked like a TV remote and scanned the front of the cart – and boom – my cart moved effortlessly. She explained, “They have these everywhere in the city. The wheels will automatically lock near the doors unless someone scans the wheels.” So she overrode the locking mechanism and I sheepishly left the ramp as another clerk handed me a new pack of blueberries. Kudos to the Walmart staff for being so friendly. I am now fully aware of what to do if my cart wheels lock-up in the city.