Life In A Post-1937 Sylvan Goldman World
Shopping carts, they’re everywhere. In 90042, especially so.
Our very walkable neighborhoods means being able to not have to drive into a grocery store parking lot every time we need to stock up on provisions. While some prefer to ride their cargo bikes from Flying Pigeon LA, and the smarter locals roll the avenues with their own trusty baskets in tow, it is not unusual to see an abandoned shopping cart on every avenue. Sometime, conveniently placed on the corner, sometimes dumped on the side of the road, filled with other unwanted items like TVs or pieces of furniture. Sometimes they lay overturned next to bus stops, creating improvised bus benches.
The introduction of the shopping cart has probably changed the face of civilization more than any other device, with the exception of the car. Think about the billions of tons of products that are carried to millions of check stands the world over. The homeless, the vending entrepeneurs and the shopping cart army of recyclers that roll through town on every trash night would get about quite differently if it weren’t for this abundance of stray shopping carts. Stray carts are embedded into the fabric of daily life in Highland Park. Some of the hardest-working guys around Northeast Los Angeles are the flatbed trucks scurrying around 90042 retrieving the strays and returning them for a couple of dollars per cart.
When the El Super on York Blvd., and Avenue 56 opened last year, the prevalence of shopping carts in the neighborhood grew exponentially. The brand-new gray carts without wheel-locking mechanisms could be found as far away as Pasadena and Lincoln Heights. Theirs was the exception to the rule for 90042. Most stores won’t let their carts out the door.
Until this month, the Super A on York, had an interesting system of indoor and outdoor carts. The indoor ones used in the store were standard clean easy-rolling metal carts that would get exchanged for busted tagged-up mismatched outdoor ones at the check-out stand. Super A has now joined other local grocery stores like Fresh & (sl)Easy and Food 4 (More or) Less by replacing the loaner carts with new carts equipped with wheel-locking boot mechanisms that seize up when they get to the edge of the parking lot.
On May 12th the city council voted to have such wheel-locking devices mandated for all shopping carts citywide. The council directed the City Attorney to draft an ordinance that would mirror a similar law in Glendale that requires markets that use shopping carts to keep those shopping carts on their premisses.
Such an ordnance will drastically change the landscape of Highland Park. This will certainly have the benefit of less shopping carts flowing down the avenues and eventually ending up in the Arroyo Seco. But what would this mean for smaller markets like Figueroa Produce with limited resources to corral the few carts they do have?
Strangely, for some reason, unlike most of the world, the United States has this practice of freely loaning out shopping carts, whereas other countries require the shopper to rent the cart for a small fee meant to encourage the shopper to return the cart. Much like the practice of renting a luggage cart at the airport, you get your money back when you return it. (Or someone returns it and collects the money instead.) Such a practice of charging rental for carts here would likely resemble the effect that California Redemption Values had for bottles and cans 25 years ago. –It vertualy eliminated the problem of stray bottles and cans on our streets and in our arroyos, and gave this guy something to do everyday.
*Sylvan Goldman invented the shopping cart in 1937 for his Humpty Dumpty supermarket in Oklahoma City.