MILL VALLEY, Calif. -- Mollie Stones here has seen a drastic reduction in cart losses at its Pacific Heights store since the installation of a shopping-cart security system.
The retailer's inner-city store used to lose between 50 and 100 carts per year, according to Steve Stamos, general manager for the six-store retailer. Since installing the cart antitheft device in a pilot program last September, the retailer hasn't seen one cart leave the lot, Stamos added.
Each cart costs about $85 to replace and the retailer said it's expecting a full return on investment in 18 months.
The system, from CartTronics, San Diego, works via radio frequency technology. When a cart is taken beyond the parking lot perimeter, a wheel lock is tripped and the cart cannot be pushed any farther.
"One wheel in the front is replaced with a CartTronics wheel," Stamos said. "It locks down and you can't drag it."
Once the wheel is locked, the cart must be reset by the store's staff using a remote control device.
Stamos said that although cart theft is a big problem, especially at the inner-city store, the theft is not often a premeditated act.
"We have a lot of people who are used to taking the carts home," Stamos said. They bring the cart home and then the carts disappear, he added.
In an effort to accommodate the needs of its now cartless consumers, Mollie Stones started running two buses between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. for customers who might ordinarily walk a cart home.
"If a customer buys $20 worth of groceries, we have two buses that hold about 19 people drop off the consumers within a certain geographic region," Stamos said. He added that when the retailer decided to use the antitheft cart system, the buses became part of the store's remodeling plan.
"We put the bus stop in the parking lot," he added.
Although the retailer has another store in Palo Alto that loses about 50 carts a year, there are no immediate plans to expand the cart-antitheft program.