Shopping cart theft is a costly headache for retailers, but the city is helping to fight back

You might not think shopping carts are that expensive, but they can add a lot to a retailer’s bottom line.
Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 4:44 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 22, 2022 at 8:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - You might not think shopping carts are that expensive, but they can add a lot to a retailer’s bottom line.

“The really good carts that you see at the shopping centers or the grocery stores ... they can run up to $700 to $800 a cart,” said Tina Yamaki, president of Retail Merchants Of Hawaii.

Taking one off property is technically a crime ― but incidents are rising.

“People don’t realize that they’re stealing it.” she said.

“It’s not just the residentially challenged we’re seeing or stealing our shopping carts. It’s kupuna, who go and get some groceries and then push the cart to the bus stop, or they’ll take it home to their apartment building.”

Enforcement is unrealistic so retailers are taking steps to prevent theft, like working with the city.

In fact, city crews have collected 4,823 stolen shopping carts so far this year, most in urban Honolulu and many from Walmart and Sam’s.

Carts in good condition are returned.

“It’s a lot of money, and some of them may pass it on to the customer, because you gotta replace the cart,” Yamaki said.

And that’s something shoppers do not want.

“You end up having to pay for added costs for what’s already priced high in Hawaii,” shopper Jason Kauhane said.

The carts are so expensive that some stores have gone to great lengths to protect them, including installing technology that prevents you from taking them off the property ― from wheels that lock when they cross a perimeter or poles that block you from leaving the store.

“They’re being a little bit more vigilant, they’re kind of watching and they’re having more people being out,” Yamaki said, adding that some employees have to double as cart wranglers.

Teneshia Howard says so many carts were stolen from her workplace that they only had five left.

“We always have to do cart runs to make sure that we keep our carts. But now that we got in the locking system, it’s a little bit better now,” she said.

“They come here to buy 40 pounds of cat litter and they’re like, oh, we need a cart. And then they’re kind of upset with us. And then we have to stop what we’re doing to actually carry this stuff out to the car to for them.”