Procrastination Nation

Things that Robert is thinking about that keep him from accomplishing anything.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2004
The only thing more annoying than a Super Bowl with a stultefyingly boring first half, too many commercials, too much lead-in, and a ridiculous halftime show is suffering through punditry on Janet Jackson's tittie. So, I'll spare you an obsessive entry with my thoughts on the subject. Sufficit to say, my opinion can be summed up by this exchange from Scrooged:
Censor: Specifically, you can see her nipple.

Frank Cross: I want to see her nipple.

Teamster: You can hardly see that nipple.

Frank: See, and these guys are really looking.

Instead, I point you to this interesting tidbit from USAToday on shopping carts. I've previously referred you to IDEO, the engineering firm that helped design a better grocery cart for Nightline. I'm soliciting better, cheaper ideas from you, the Internet community for how to deal with stolen shopping carts.

My three ideas are:
  • No Deposit, No Cart: The idea is that you would require customers to leave a deposit of some sort in order to take a cart, and make them financially responsible if they do not return a cart. The deposit could be as simple as a credit card authorization that is not processed unless the cart is returned; you could possibly link it to those membership cards that everyone seems to carry to get price breaks. This would also have the benefit of getting people to return their carts instead of leaving them strewn all over the parking lot. It's essentially the same concept behind the luggage carts at airports. The only flaw is that people will screw up and pass their cart to somebody else instead of completing the return; or, people may take each other's carts. But, there're probably ways to deal with either problem.

  • Retail Carts: If these things are in such demand, why is there not a retail market for grocery carts? If people could buy them, maybe they wouldn't steal them? Obviously this wouldn't stop teens looking for something to do, but it might stop the well-to-do from casually putting a cart in their SUV or pickup truck. More importantly though, I think the well-to-do would actually want one. People hate loading and unloading groceries. Why? Because they don't have a cart at home to take them into the house. If you had your own personal cart and a car big enough to hold one, you could use your own for both ends of the trip (or at least keep one at home to use for unloading). Make them customizable (like Apple did with iMac colored computers). Let them be a status thing. Maybe car makers will develop a ramp system to load them into cars.

  • Buy Back: Pay people to return the carts. This can be as elaborate as a sort of gun-buy-back where you pay homeless people for their carts, or as simple as Wal-Mart's trick of giving raffle tickets for prizes in exchange for returned carts. Or reward them with coupons. This has possible problems (people stealing carts to return them for cash), but the idea may be useful.

Any of these seems like they would cost less than $60 per cart for all carts in a supermarket's inventory. Email your solutions.

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