The Shopping Troll(ey)

21 Apr

Once you notice a few trolleys outside, you can’t stop seeing them. Kind of like when you’re thinking of buying a certain car and suddenly you see it everywhere.

This is what happened to me. I noticed a few trolleys in Belconnen and suddenly, everywhere I look, there’s a trolley (or more!).

So, in the past few months I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about trolleys, looking at trolleys, taking photos of trolleys, tweeting about trolleys, asking questions about trolleys, talking about trolleys, answering questions about trolleys… and so I figured it’s time to write a blog post.

And, it’s not just about me… I want your input!

There are plenty of reasons why I get upset about our trolleyed landscape – and most people seem to share my frustration.

Trolleys don’t look that great when they’re not in a mall. Do you want to live in a suburb which has what looks like its own trolley farm? Do you want to buy a property there?

Trolleys aren’t designed to survive the elements. They’re no use to anyone when they’re not in the mall. Have you ever seen a trolley on the loose on a windy day? Or a trolley sitting in a disabled car park?

Trolleys gathering for their morning chat

Trolleys gathering for their morning chat

Because of the hilly nature of Belconnen, some trolleys are dumped at the bottom or near the tops of stairs. The ones at the top? They inevitably end up at the bottom of the staircase, thrown down by people who think it’s funny, or used to give wild rides. I’ve seen it happen plenty, and it’s bloody dangerous.

The trolleys I see sticking out of the lake, wheels in the air, upset me the most.

Belconnen Town Centre has three elements which means trolleys are a feature of the landscape:

1) A mall

Westfield Belconnen has Coles, Woolworths, Myer, Aldi, Target, Kmart, Dan Murphy’s, Liquorland, Harris Scarfe, a fruit market… If you buy more than a few groceries, you’re going to need a trolley. If you purchase a box of wine or a slab of beer, you’re probably going to need a trolley. If you get a home appliance or some storage gear, you’re probably going to need a trolley.

Of course, none of this means the trolley needs to leave the centre. That’s where the other two elements come in.

If you think it's bad at the mall... (there are five trolleys in this photo)

If you think it’s bad at the mall… (there are five trolleys in this photo)

2) Increasing residential population

It’s a fact that there are more residences in the Town Centre now, and it’s not over yet. In addition to the well-established residences in Emu Ridge, on Chandler Street (Padthaway, Netanya and Miramar), and on Beissel Street (The Shores, Lakeside, Waterside and Central Park), there’s Oracle, Altitude, Sentinel, Linq (being built), Wayfarer (about to be built), Loop (not yet built) and Westfield’s own towers (not yet built). And then there’s Totterdell Street, and the University of Canberra residences. Phew!

Belconnen Town Centre also has a bus interchange. You can see that a lot of the people living in the residences might not have a car. Or, if they do, why would they use it if they live in such close proximity to the mall? But, if they walk there and then want to buy something big (or a lot of things), they’ll need some way of getting it home. Unless they’re keen to make a few trips (and who’s got time for that?), what better than a trolley? And that brings me to my next point.

Trolley conga line

Trolley conga line

3) Flat paths

Belconnen’s hilly, yes. But it’s got pretty solid access. You can get a trolley from the mall to the University of Canberra (and everywhere in between) because it’s all wheelchair accessible. And if it’s wheelchair accessible, it’s trolley accessible.

None of these things on their own is bad; in fact, I’m very happy all of this features in the Town Centre. And, none of these things is going to change–and nor should they.

I can see why trolleys leave the centres. I empathise with the need to transport things. And if the trolleys were used for transport and then returned to the mall, I wouldn’t have a problem. But of course they’re not. Heck, people with cars have issues returning trolleys to trolley bays a few metres away, so there’s no way trolleys which leave the mall are going to be returned.

A good effort at the mall

A good effort at the mall

So, what to do about it?

The major supermarkets have trolley collection phone lines – Woolworths’ is 1800 641 497 and Coles’ is easy to remember: 1800 TROLLEY. Woolworths has a trolley collection app. Coles is incredibly responsive on Twitter if you post a picture and let them know the location (@Coles) (@Woolworths_AU not so much). Kmart is responsive on Facebook. You can also ask the ACT Government to take charge through the Fix My Street online form. The ACT Government regularly does a blitz and impounds the trolleys, fining the stores to release them.

After posting (quite) a few photos to Twitter about trolleys, Coles put me in touch with their National Compliance Manager–Trolleys (yes, that’s a real role), Jon. Coles takes trolley loss seriously; trolleys on the landscape directly contradicts its clean, fresh image. Coles tries to collect trolleys which leave their centre regularly.

Coles also want to target their efforts. Are there hot spots – spots where trolleys appear all the time – like Chandler Street in Belconnen? Coles (genuinely – Jon has openly encouraged this) wants to know – call them on 1800 TROLLEY so the trolley collection team doesn’t waste their time where the trolleys aren’t. (EDIT 28/4: Woolworths have since responded to me on Facebook. Scroll down for the full update.)

But this doesn’t stop trolleys being on the streets in the first place, and the hazard they can cause simply once they leave the centre.

It's like they're dying to get out

It’s like they’re dying to get out

Some supermarkets have coin-locks, where you put in $1 or $2 to have the trolley released, and you get the coin back when you lock the trolley back in. Coles doesn’t do this unless they really have to, because they think it’s a real negative for customers. My thoughts are that I reckon some people might be happy to sacrifice a buck or two to be able to get their shopping home and not return the trolley (maybe some enterprising young kids could take advantage of this? I’m reminded of the scene in Christobel Mattingley’s excellent children’s book, The Sack, but maybe $1-2 ain’t enough these days). And if some stores use coin-lock and others don’t, and you don’t have a gold coin on you, wouldn’t you just take a trolley from the other store? I’ve heard reports that this is what happens in the Jamison Centre: those shopping at Aldi (which makes good use of the coin-lock system) grab a trolley from Coles. This might explain why you don’t see Aldi trolleys on the streets – their customers are using Coles trolleys!

The other option is the wheel lock system. This is where, around the perimeter of the centre, they install some wires which ‘lock’ the trolleys. Try to push the trolley past the perimeter? The wheels lock. The trolley won’t move. It won’t leave the centre. It won’t touch the streets.

This is an option open to Coles and the other stores at the Belconnen Mall at the moment, but it costs a lot of money to install. It’s also going to upset a lot of people. But, it also seems like the only option that will remove trolleys from our streets is this one.

This is where you come in.

Tell me, do you have a solution to the trolley problem? Is the wheel-lock mechanism the best one? If it is, is there another option for people who aren’t using cars to get their shopping home? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

UPDATE 23 April: LOVING the comments below. Thanks so much Canberra – who knew a conversation about trolleys could be so creative and engaging? There are some really interesting solutions put forward – some which I think are genuinely viable (or at least have viable elements!) even though they might not have been tried elsewhere yet.

The comments got me thinking about incentive systems, and how hard it is to even encourage people to take trolleys to trolley bays when they’re in the mall. The coin-lock system helps. I would if you could really push that idea of a reward system with a bit of chance involved – say every 20th trolley returned to a bay gets the returnee a $5 or $10 voucher to spend in the mall. Kind of like trolley lotto – you never know if you’re going to win, but the chances are reasonable, and for a little bit of effort you might get a decent saving off your next shop. This’d encourage people who abandon trolleys in the car park to return them, as well as those who take trolleys a bit further away.

What do you reckon? Too out there?

UPDATE 28 April: Woolworths ain’t active on Twitter, but it sure is active on Facebook. Here’s their response when I asked how regularly trolley collection is done, and whether Woolworths wants to know of ‘hot spots’, like Coles does.

Hi Tara, our Trolley Tracker report will alert the the collector on the ground of the location, we suggest you report the trolley’s to our trolley tracker as it alerts our National Trolley team to hot spots.

If the customer wants to work with the Woolworths in regards to the trolleys in Belconnen, the the first point of call should be the Belconnen Store Manager. The Store Manager talks directly with the collectors on a day to day basis. The Store would regularly talk about hot spots and the areas that need to be checked as they have access to the reports that Trolley Tracker compile from the complaints/notifications. As a Woolworths Store Manager he/she would be very active in the community and would be the best contact. We hope this helps. Thanks.

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41 Responses to “The Shopping Troll(ey)”

  1. CBRFoodie April 21, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

    All the trolleys in Kippax require a coin and as far as I can see it has greatly reduced trolley theft. There are still some people that take them away and dump them in the creek etc. But the problem has been greatly reduced over recent years.

    • inthetaratory April 22, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

      Thanks CBRFoodie! I do like the concept. But what if you don’t have a coin? Maybe Belconnen Mall could introduce a PayPass system!

  2. veronicashortandsweet April 21, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

    Interesting post. Like you say, any amount of shopping requires assistance with carrying. I spent a bit of time in the UK and most people walked to the shops and had their own wheeled shopping trolley. Not just for grannies and they can be quite trendy!

    • inthetaratory April 22, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

      That’s really interesting! Are they the ones I’m thinking of with canvas bags that kind of fold up? Or are they a little bigger than that? I’m curious re how much they can carry!

      • veronicashortandsweet April 22, 2014 at 10:27 pm #

        They’re the ones! A bag on two wheels. Not big or strong enough if you shop once a week, but probably would take the equivalent of two of those green bags you can pick up at supermarkets these days.

      • inthetaratory April 22, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

        I like them! They seem to be REALLY present at places like the EPIC markets. I wonder what’s a solution if someone wanted to take something heavier home – like a carton of beer (this makes me sound bad but I think it’s a good example! Just a bit too heavy and unwieldy to carry very far – particularly if you have other groceries)?

      • veronicashortandsweet April 23, 2014 at 6:19 am #

        I think you can get some with demountable bags – so you could attach something stronger to the metal base and frame, like a milk crate. Agree, they seem common at EPIC, not so common in regular shops. Probably due in part to the lack of shopping trolleys at EPIC and the more challenging car park!

  3. Rosemarie April 22, 2014 at 12:44 am #

    Oh my! In Singapore and Malaysia, you can’t take the trolley out of the mall at all. You will be stopped. Guards everywhere to stop you. The malls don’t care if you have no car to transport your things cause if they do, you will hAve customers who won’t care to return their trolleys just likes what’s happening in Belconnen ๐Ÿ™‚

    • inthetaratory April 22, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

      It’s a tough method but it certainly seems to be the most effective one! What do people do when they’ve got a lot of things to carry and can’t take a trolley out of the centre?

  4. Gary Lum April 22, 2014 at 6:20 am #

    Since you mentioned the problem a few months ago I’ve noticed them more and more. Trolleys are already expensive but I’d like to see them made with bigger wheels and more like the ones at Costco which are of better construction. In an ideal world they would be equipped with radio frequency tags that triggered howling alarms if they were taken close to sensors at the perimeter of shopping centres. Hounds and armed security would emerge if the trolley was going to be taken from the trolley zone. Ideally a loud speaker would have Mr Burns voice calmly, “Release the hounds”.
    The longevity of trolleys would be improved if mall management/owners spent the money on better road and pavement surfaces. The road surfaces at some shopping centres simply destroy trolleys.
    A few trolleys should be available for those shoppers who want to walk them to their homes and they should be available with an annual $120 refundable fee (pro rata per month for short term residents).
    Finally, rewards by way of discounted diesel and petrol should be offered to shoppers who always return the trolleys properly.

    • inthetaratory April 22, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

      Some great ideas Gary. Some howling noises might be a little extreme BUT it definitely would be a way of enforcing certain behaviours! It’s kind of like the idea with the coin-lock – when you know there’s a cost involved (monetary or reputation/embarrassment!) you’re probably more likely to do the right thing. There doesn’t necessarily have to be a punishment for not returning trolleys, but where’s the incentive to do it? Currently there’s none – at what must be a huge cost to some of these supermarkets, particularly the smaller ones. I think the discounted diesel and petrol is a great incentive.

      I really like your idea about potentially renting trolleys… what remains the issue is that people who live close to the mall want to be able to carry their shopping home, but sometime it’s more than they can carry. A scheme where they don’t have to return the trolley immediately but maybe have to look after it would assist… it’s creative at the very least!

  5. Kristin Milton April 22, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    Woolworths and Coles both have ‘Trolley Tracking’ apps as well, so you can use your smart phone to take a picture, and the gps records the location.

    • inthetaratory April 22, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

      I knew about the Woolworths one but not the Coles one – thanks Kristin!

  6. Megan (@Girlhassparke) April 22, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    I love Gary’s idea of some loud noise occuring when the trolleys were taken too far from the mall – public humiliation is always a good deterrent.

    • inthetaratory April 22, 2014 at 10:26 pm #

      I agree! People behave differently when there’s a cost involved… monetary, humiliation or otherwise!

  7. Lisa April 22, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

    UC has a trolley bay in its residence’s car park. I used to see the Westfield trolley man come along on his tractor and take them all away ๐Ÿ™‚

    • inthetaratory April 22, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

      Interesting! Is the trolley bay used, or do people dump them around the trolley bay? Does someone have to round them into the trolley bay before they’re picked up?

      • Bradley (@BradleyStanhope) April 26, 2014 at 9:23 am #

        This morning:
        2 in the Village’s trolley bay
        at least 19 within 300m of the trolley bay

        Coles, Woolworths, and McDonald’s Emu Bank should pay TAMS for a part-time City Ranger dedicated to enforcing the Litter Act in Belconnen.

  8. Katrina April 23, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    Personalised wheel trolleys need to become popular, reducing the need for store trolleys (unless you have a massive item). The effect might be like when reusable bags become essential because the shops stopped giving out the plastic throw away ones.

    • inthetaratory April 24, 2014 at 12:32 am #

      That’s a really good point. It’s an interesting idea – but how to encourage? Is there a way to get people in densely populated areas close to supermarkets to use personalised wheel trolleys – or at the very least to buy them?

      I wonder if there’s something in only using what you need in terms of transport/carrying – are there some people who just grab a trolley to use out of habit, even if they’re only getting a few items?

      If someone does have a large item, or a large number of items, and have to use a trolley, I guess we’re still back to the same problem. Hm! You’ve got my brain ticking!

  9. Yvette berry April 23, 2014 at 9:35 am #

    Kippax Trolley dumping has definitly lessened since coins were introduced – you can buy a key ring disc from Aldi so if you don’t have coins you can use the disc, just don’t forget your keys.

    Tara I also thought of Victoria Markets and their Trolley Hire system. Maybe a business opportunity or something the larger shopping outlets could consider. Check it out
    http://www.qvm.com.au/shops-and-stalls/market-espresso-trolley-hire/

    • inthetaratory April 24, 2014 at 12:38 am #

      I really like that trolley hire system! What a clever idea. Maybe there’s a way of doing it in the mall: it’s free to use a trolley in and around the mall and mall car park, but as soon as you try to take it out of the centre you have to ‘hire’ it – something like $10 refundable deposit might be enough to bring people back.

  10. Kylie-anne April 23, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    All these suggestions are fantastic. Thanks Tara for bringing it to the table and actively seeking a solution.

    My thoughts with the trolleys is…somehow we need to change the community mindshift from “she’ll be right” to the expectation of returning a trolley in the bays provided. This doesn’t solve the issue for those on foot…I think that’s a separate issue which needs a desperate solution.

    I give the example all the time when I’m frustrated at a Hoyt’s movie trip. I’m one of those people who like to book my seats and like to arrive at the start of the shorts and sit in MY seat. No one sits in a non allocated seat at Dendy. Why….because early on the expectations of allocated seating was enforced. Hoyt’s introduced allocated seating but didn’t position a few staff members in the cinema in the early days; to show cinema goers that it was expected they a) look at their ticket and b) sit in that seat. The expectation of allocated seating has never been set in Hoyt’s. And so I continually see disgruntled people who have been asked to move or have had to find new seats.

    I’m not sure how we get the expectation that the trolleys be returned into our community (we can’t seem to get it through to people that Charity bins aren’t dumping grounds…appears we are generally sloths) but I think that’s the key to the solution. We only have to look at many of our Asian neighbours to see that the expectation of a tidy city works. Ok…they seem to have some law enforcers assisting them on this but as a culture it does also seem deep within as part of pride.

    • inthetaratory April 24, 2014 at 12:57 am #

      Thanks, Kylie-anne, for your enthusiasm! Loving this conversation!

      I think you’re right – this is bigger than people taking trolleys out of centres, and it does start with a pretty careless/reckless attitude *within* the centre where there’s no incentive to return them, and no punishment (reputation, monetary, whatever) for not returning them. Maybe this is where it starts: if we can fix the attitude *within* the centre – ie you SHOULD be returning trolleys because you will receive XYZ, and you SHOULD be returning trolleys because if you *don’t* then XYZ.

      I like your Hoyts/Dendy analogy. Having a few staff members monitoring what’s going on and trying to encourage the right behaviour could be key. For example, one week there could be a promotion where people who return trolleys to bays are given a scratchie for Westfield, and one in five has a small prize. On the flip side, speakers in the carparks could be employed – if you don’t return your trolley to a bay, you could be singled out over the speaker system… that’s probably on the extreme side, but that’s along the lines of what Gary and others have suggested: being publicly singled out for naughty behaviour is a pretty quick way of helping change that behaviour.

  11. TIFFIN bite sized (@TIFFINbitesized) April 24, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    Hi Tara – long time reader, first time commenter…

    Seriously, I live in Brisbane but visit Belconnen once or twice a month for work and ever since you’ve been tweeting your trolley pictures, they’re the first thing I see as I enter the suburb. One of the newer Woollies I visit in Brisbane has a wheel locking system and whilst it’s expensive to install, it really is the best solution. You never see a Woollies trolley in the surrounding streets but see plenty of Coles trolleys as they are an older supermarket who allow the trolleys to roam free.

    I must say that whilst the supermarkets should claim responsibility and manage their trolleys better, it is a sad indictment on the community in general that they think it’s OK to use and then discard the trolleys. I agree that sometimes people may need a trolley to lug over something big to the surrounding apartments but surely they will be heading back to the shops at some stage fairly soon and can take the trolley back too. How far can it be? Would a little exercise kill them? What a pity supermarkets need to have roles such as Jon’s. I’d much rather they were able to channel that salary into something more useful such as a ‘shopper’s assistant’ for those who are aged or have a disability.

    Anyway, good on you for putting a spotlight on this topic. Your tweets are amusing too!

    • inthetaratory April 25, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

      Okay, thanks for taking the time to comment! I’m glad it’s an issue other people recognise, too.

      It does seem to keep coming back to incentive, doesn’t it? People have issues returning trolleys to bays when they’re in the supermarket, let alone when they lug the trolley down the street. What would bring people and their trolleys back to the bay? (Unless they can’t take a trolley out in the first place…)

      If wheel locking IS installed, I wonder if the mall could have something that people could rent or buy to take their groceries/whatever out of the mall… kind of like how you have to either bring your own bags or pay for them. So much food for thought!

  12. Liz Posmyk of Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things April 24, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    When I lived in Totterdell Street and managed the Belconnen Markets (in a former lifetime), I was always phoning the supermarkets and jumping online reporting the trolleys. You are right, they are like an invasion! Now I’m in Harrison and we still see trolleys all over the place and I am amazed that people actually walk the distances with them! I think that there are some shopping centres that do not allow trolleys out of the centre or locality. Fact is they are hideously expensive to replace! I think a locking system is probably the way to go.

    • inthetaratory April 25, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

      It is amazing, isn’t it? Driving to the southside today, I saw people pushing a trolley along the bridge! The bridge is a long way from any supermarket… crazy!

      • Liz Posmyk of Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things May 16, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

        So true… and what about the ones they push down the hill from up near the roundabout! Sheesh! A locking system and FINES! Also, the trolleys are soooooooooo expensive to replace.

  13. Simon May 8, 2014 at 11:19 pm #

    IGA handed out coin size tokens on a key fob that work on their trolleys, can use it instead of dollar coin. Personally I use basket (gotta work the guns sometime). Options for the car-less? Woollies home delivery? Or go euro style and take your own small trolley? They even roll properly. Nothing sadder than a trolley lost in the wilderness…

  14. Mag January 15, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

    Agree with all the comments and suggestions covering a (refundable) cost to use the trolleys. It’s plain that there are many folks in Canberra who understand the many issues associated with misuse and the general trashing of trolleys and therefore use them responsibly. Sadly tho, they’re outnumbered by some 100-1 by the ‘others’. We don’t need to send somebody to go trotting off on some lavish overseas junket ((as was the appalling case with Gulia Jones and Vicki Dunne) to find a solution. Surely we can find other ways. Education, clever devices fitted, give kids some $s incentives to bring them back, get Woolies and Coles to help find a solution (then they can pass on the savings to us !!..Wouldn’t that be nice). Canberra is turning into a giant rubbish dump and I for one am heartily sick of the cost increases associated with fixing things when others continue to act irresponsibly. Get Yvette Berry to do some ‘real’ work instead of swanning about here and there contributing little more than photos of her kids, pets, her favourite things, locations and the many other banal offerings she’s so fond of sharing.

    • Ross January 17, 2015 at 9:40 am #

      Another place where I regualrly see a heap of trolleys is behind the townhouses just down from the Jamison pool (where the bike path goes from Catchpole St to Belconnen Way).

      Not sure what the solution is, a lot of people couldn’t be bothered walking hundreds of metres back to the shops with a trolley (often uphill) just to get $1 or $2 back so they just leave them wherever.

      Maybe a trolley refundable $10 (or more) “hire service” like you suggested may work. Perhaps like when hiring a car people might have to give their credit card details so if the trolley isn’t returned then that person coughs up for the cost of a replacement. I’ve heard trolleys can cost up to $400 to replace, so I imagine people would be pretty keen to return them so as not get charged an amount like this!

      Some interesting links I found on the web about trolleys that you might be interested in if you haven’t already seen them:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shopping_cart

      http://ausfoodnews.com.au/2012/01/06/australian-shopping-trolley-dilemma-carrot-and-stick-strategies-for-recovery-of-the-ones-that-go-missing.html

  15. Chris Emery May 14, 2015 at 2:54 pm #

    It is interesting to note that one organisation which only has a few trolleys told me they would not get their trolley picked up because the pickup charge was higher than the cost of a new trolley from China.

  16. Chris Emery May 20, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    The coin deposit system has worked around Civic however Target and Big-W have not cooperated, in fact they refuse to consider a coin deposit.

  17. Projuktishop March 23, 2017 at 4:01 am #

    I agree with you.. really such a informative post about Metal Shopping Cart

  18. Thomas Foley June 2, 2017 at 9:30 am #

    Magnetic wheel locks are definitely the way to stop trolleys leaving the premises. I first came accross this system 20 years ago at Collingwood Woolworths. However I agree this type of prevention system is more suitable for stores without or with limited car parking.

    Id love to send you a couple of photos I took last weekend of the trolley return bays at Belconnen mall. Let’s just say it put me off grocery shopping at Coles Belconnen forever.

    People who don’t have a car have 2 options:
    Lug your stuff around in your own trolley.
    Pay to get it delivered.
    I dont think either of those options are unreasonable. Nobody owes you the convenience of supplying a means to get your stuff from A to B for nothing.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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