Unmet transportation demand in Westboro

These grocery carts are parked in a field near Island Park Towers,  upscale rental buildings just west of Island Park Drive along the Ottawa River.

I suspect the building caretakers gather the carts and push them across the street, abandoning them on a dilapidated bit of … city or Ottawa Hydro land.

For a brief time, I resided in Fenwick Towers, a brutal concrete high-rise in Halifax. The views were fabulous. The building inside was dubious, having been started as a luxury tower but bankrupted before completion, and then finished out in Beaver Lumber cheap by the university. This was before cell phones, so residents communicated to each other by going out on the balcony and yelling up or down the building as loud as possible.

Directly across the street was a large Sobey grocery store. Naturally, the carts all migrated from the Sobey’s to the lobby of the Tower. Signs were posted. Warnings were issued. Escalating to dire threats. But still the carts came to Fenwick; and of course no one wanted to wheel an empty cart back to the store because that would advertise that you probably took it in the first place. The need to get beer groceries home outweighed any social disapproval; the return trip offered no rewards.

Eventually, Sobey’s relied on Market Forces to do the job. The carts cost 25 or 50cents to rent at the store. But if you took a cart from Fenwick, you had one for free, and earned 50cents by returning it. The incentive, like the deposit on wine bottles, was sufficient to cause some members of society to be modestly rewarded for doing good.

Students were genuinely poor back in those days.

So what, I wondered, could Galen Weston do to encourage the return of the carts to their Real Canadian Superstore premises? It should be cheap, and preferably involve no paid labour on Loblaw’s part.

8 thoughts on “Unmet transportation demand in Westboro

  1. Simple, have a $2 coin deposit to use them. If people don’t care about getting their deposit back, local kids, or bottle gleaners will.

  2. Out west, most carts cost a quarter to rent. I thought that the Superstore carts all had the locks that stop them from working after they leave the store property? That seems to be the new vogue, which annoys changeless customers less, only punishing those that want to take the cart closer to a taxi.

  3. I have seen on more than one occasion a dilalipated school bus cruising the neighbourhood. Inside, I could see it was full of shopping carts! Obviously, some enterprising person is out hunting them for a bounty – I bet more than 25 cents.

  4. Best Story about Fenwick Towers? Apparently, one of the reasons that it went bankrupt before completion was; It was supposed to have a pool on the rooftop. The engineers calculated the weight of the pool, but didn’t properly calculate the weight of water in the pool, so when they filled it up, there were too many strains on the building. So it had an empty pool on the roof for years.

    My parents used to live around the corner from that place. I used to pass by it on the way to the Sobey’s all the time.

    Completely off-topic. What is it with Maritime businesses invading Ontario? I’ve gone into my first Sobeys and my first Irving gas station west of quebec in the past two weeks.

  5. I have often wondered if that cart really blocks. Food Basics warns for blocking after leaving the property and I saw signs at the new Walmart at Baseline and Merivale too. Problem is, that I never shop at those places but I am kind of itching to try it out. I don’t really see a mechanism that should do that and don’t you have some wires or RFID or wifi running everywhere to make that work? I would say charging a dollar helps as they do in most European bigger supermarkets. A quarter might not be enough. I have found two carts in front of my house-ish, a kilometer from the nearest Lolaws and I am not embarrassed to take them back in the back of my car, even dragged one behind me on my bike one day. I guess it is all about economics though, the number of disappearing carts might not be worth the bother to install these coin locks yet. Or other citizens bring them back.

    1. I can say that the carts at the new Walmart do lock. People try to push them into Central Park along the MUP and then promptly abandon them on the path when the wheels lock (which makes them difficult to clear off of the path if you’re trying to get to Loblaws or Walmart with a stroller or on a bike).

  6. Food Basics-style quarter slots work to get me to return the cart to the cart muster station (I have my lucky quarter in the car for just that purpose), but probably wouldn’t stop people without cars from taking them off the property to get their groceries home.

    Maybe making it a loonie instead of a quarter would discourage people from taking them away, or else encourage enterprising folks to return them to the store.

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