Thursday 29 April 2021

Going Off My Trolley

Supermarkets have been around for a century or so - they started in the USA, and the first chain was the "Piggly Wiggly", closely followed by the "Humpty Dumpty" and "Safeway" [the latter seems a more sensible name imho] 

Sylvan Goldman, who founded the HD chain, wanted his shoppers to buy lots - so he designed a frame on wheels, holding two wire baskets, thus doubling the amount his customers could collect round the store. Initially customers were reluctant to use the 'cart' - women felt it looked like a pram, men felt it was too effeminate for them to push!

Goldman actually hired men and women to walk up and down the aisles, pushing the trolleys, to persuade customers it was perfectly ok to be seen using them!

One of the biggest manufacturers is the Wanzl Company - originally a firm of metalworking engineers, they began business in the Sudetenland in 1917 - thirty years later they established a factory in Germany, producing trolleys for the new 'self-service' stores which were starting to be built there. Now they have factories all over the world - including a large UK plant in Warwickshire. As well as supermarket trolleys, they produce luggage trolleys for airports and much more. And they are not cheap - the average trolley costs around £150. Now do a quick calculation about how many are lined up outside your favourite store. That represents a huge amount of money!

So you can understand why supermarkets are unhappy about people taking the trolleys and dumping them in the canal, leaving them at the side of the road, or generally rendering them unusable. It is unnecessary, expensive pollution. 

Some councils fine the supermarkets if their trolleys are dumped in the wrong place. I am sure that you, dear readers, always return your trolleys to the line - and would never push it in the canal [or leave it sideways in the adjacent parking space, just to annoy other customers!]
1400 trolleys are abandoned every day at a cost to British business of £35M a year. 40% of British shoppers do not consider trolley theft to be a major problem. [I didn't, until I read the statistics]
I was interested to read about a scheme called Trolleywise which has been set up in the UK by Wanzl, to help get the trolleys back to the shops. This is a 'specialist recovery operation' - but the company are enlisting the help of the public to make it work. There is a free app, to download to your phone - and when you see a trolley in The Wrong Place, you simply take a photo and send it to Trolleywise. They will despatch their recovery experts to find the trolley and bring it home. 
In Ferndown, I frequently drove past Tesco trolleys alongside the A31 [in places where it was not safe to stop the car!] and often walked through Ringwood town centre pushing an abandoned trolley back to Sainsburys or Waitrose as I returned to the Car Park. Here in rural Norfolk, we are less likely to see them littering the quiet byways. 
But I applaud Wenzl for their initiative. Their website says they are 'committed to doing the Right Thing, socially, ethically and environmentally' as they try to rid the waterways and local communities of these 'hazardous eyesores' 


  1. Here in Ireland you have to use a 1 or 2 euro coin to release the trolley and then get your money back when you return it to the correct place. You still see some abandoned but nowhere near as much as there used to be. Hope the unpacking is going we.

    1. A lot of English supermarkets abandoned the deposit system at the start of the pandemic as part of their cashless hygiene programme

  2. Here, whether or not you have to pay for your trolley seems to depend upon the store itself and perhaps whether the carts are kept outdoors or indoors.
    What we do have is some sort of system where they can only be pushed so far - if you try to go past a certain point the wheels automatically lock and that's it - you can't go any further. They use some sort of scanner to unlock them when they open in the morning.
    Such an interesting history of something that we just take for granted these days.

    1. The distance limiting system is interesting - I wonder if they have a tracker device in them as well

    2. Our local supermarket (T) has the wheel locking thing - but you can just lift the trolley past the area and then take it around the streets - if you're so inclined..

    3. Sadly I imagine that jolly-trolley-thieves are inclined to do just that thing!

  3. That's a very interesting bit of history there. Those statistics are dismaying. Why are people so wasteful and destructive? There are times when you can understand some crimes but when people just do it for the fun of it, it's infuriating.


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