Putting shopping carts before bigger problems of homelessness?

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Wed, 2 Sep 1998 12:17:48 -0700 (PDT)


Anthony Cosmo of Phoenix thinks stray carts are merely the harbinger of a
much greater problem. Homelessness.

"It's hard for me to feel sorry for some rich merchants losing a few
hundred carts a year," Cosmo said. "You and I are paying for their losses
in increased food costs.

"The fact is that some people have nowhere to live and no means of getting
around. Maybe the big grocery stores should donate carts to the homeless
and mark them with identifying numbers. To show compassion would be good
publicity for them." -- from article below

http://www.azcentral.com:80/wv/0715whitney.shtml
FWD  The Arizona Republic -- July 15, 1998


     PUTTING CART BEFORE BIGGER PROBLEMS?

     By Herb Whitney


Sometimes I'm amazed at which of my columns spark reader interest.

For example, last week I wrote about the city of Phoenix's efforts to
retrieve stray grocery carts.

Not exactly an earth-shattering story, and I figured I'd get a couple calls
at most.

I wound up getting an even dozen the day it was published.

Jackie Andros of Morristown, who just returned from a nine-day visit to
Alaska, called to suggest that Phoenix stores try the cart-return strategy
she observed in Anchorage and Fairbanks.

"They do it because of all the snow up there," Andros said. "They don't
want carts left out on the streets when the snowplows go out.

"So they have the carts chained together, and to get one, you put a quarter
in a slot. When you return the cart, you get the quarter back."

Andros and her husband, Steve, own an apartment complex near Northern and
27th avenues in Phoenix and have learned firsthand what an annoying problem
errant carts can be.

"The nearest shopping is on 35th Avenue, so we understand some people
without transportation have to bring back carts," Andros said. "We have to
call the stores to pick up the carts, or my husband loads them into his
pickup truck and takes them back."

A bigger problem

What they're doing in Alaska sounds like the cart-rental procedure already
in place at most U.S. airports. Except the non-refundable cost to use one
of those is $1 or more.

Anthony Cosmo of Phoenix thinks stray carts are merely the harbinger of a
much greater problem. Homelessness.

"It's hard for me to feel sorry for some rich merchants losing a few
hundred carts a year," Cosmo said. "You and I are paying for their losses
in increased food costs.

"The fact is that some people have nowhere to live and no means of getting
around. Maybe the big grocery stores should donate carts to the homeless
and mark them with identifying numbers. To show compassion would be good
publicity for them."

Cosmo's point made sense to a Glendale woman who is disabled, doesn't drive
a car and must rely on a cart to bring groceries home.

"The cart works as a crutch for me; it supports my back," said the
72-year-old woman, who asked not be identified. "People frown at me when
they see me taking a cart home. They think I'm trash to do it, but I always
bring the cart back."

The woman said she would be willing to pay a cart fee - as much as $5 - if
it were refundable.

"Carts shouldn't be abandoned in the streets," she said. "People need to be
responsible, but they won't bring them back if they're charged only a
quarter."

Unified plan is needed

Rowland Oonk, who travels throughout the Valley in his job as business
development officer for St. Mary's Food Bank, said abandoned carts are an
epidemic.

"I see them in a lot of neighborhoods, and it's not just the homeless doing
it," Oonk said. "Some people just can't carry heavy loads and have to rely
on carts."

Oonk used to live in Hawaii, where some stores, like those in Alaska,
charge a refundable 25 cents for cart use.

"Valley supermarkets lose a lot of money from missing carts," he said.
"Someone needs to take ahold of this problem, much like we've done with
graffiti."

Christel Lofthouse of Peoria occasionally returns to her native Germany to
visit relatives in Frankfurt and Munich, where stores also charge a
refundable cart fee.

But it's the equivalent of $1, not a quarter.

"Maybe stores here could sell tokens to put in the slot," Lofthouse said.
"If stores could unite and have one plan, that might result in a solution."

END FORWARD

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