Friday, November 15, 2013

1253 Grand Theft Shopping Cart or Cartjacking

1253 Grand Theft Shopping Cart or Cartjacking

(Note: this is parody.  And fiction.)

Once a horse thief could be shot.

Now, steal a car and you’ll do time.

So stealing someone else’s transportation is nothing new.

What’s next?

In the parking lot of a big box store, men in green jumpsuits are doing what looks from a distance like repairs to a long line of shopping carts that appear pristine.

Repairs?  No.  What they’re doing is putting tiny little tracking devices, mini GPS devices in a place they would disclose only if I didn’t tell all.  So I won’t.

The thought:  They want to track the carts through the aisles so they can see how long people look at a particular shelf or section.  Maybe this is a prelude to letting people scan their items as they go and then check out automatically at the door.


Nothing so experimental.

They want to track the carts when someone pushes them out of the store, out of the parking lot, onto the sidewalk, then home where they are abandoned.

Really, are THAT many stolen and not returned?  


Green suit invites me to tour the neighborhood, and in a circle of less than a mile, we spotted more than a dozen orphan carts.

“These things are expensive,” he says.  And they disappear at a terrible rate.”  

How many, how often?  Classified.

How much does the GPS add to the cost? Classified.

Where is the receiver so the collection van knows where to go? Classified.

Stealing shopping carts is as old as shopping.

This little experiment in electronic surveillance could not have been done thoroughly even a few years ago.  But now, thanks to the NSA, the Pentagon, the phone companies and Google Earth it’s cheap and easy.

And you can bet if the experiment is even close to successful companies will be using these nationwide.

Second offenders will have to get security clearance.

Third offenders will be tailed home by green jumpsuits in Cart Patrol cars.

The American Civil Liberties Union will take the merchants to court on some kind of a privacy violation charge and probably will win at least the first round.

What would Alvah Roebuck or R.H. Macy think? Or even Sam Walton.  Or Wyatt Earp?

How to reduce your chances of getting caught:

1. Roll the cart into the parking lot, looking around from side to side and stopping occasionally as if trying to remember where you’re parked even if you aren’t parked.

2. Use step one at night when it’s hard for anyone to see what you’re really doing.

3. Steal with a partner. No one steals in pairs so no one will suspect the two of you of anything.

If you get caught tell the green suit:

1. Oh, my, I didn’t realize I still had it.
2. Your recycled plastic bags are so thin they rip with a sharp look, so I’m really protecting you against unnecessary returns of damaged goods that fall through them.
3. I’m not stealing, I bought this at a yard sale.

Things you can’t do with a stolen cart:
1. Find a shady chop shop to buy it from you, strip it and export the parts to Saudi Arabia.
2. Auction it on eBay.
3. Hold it for ransom.

Where not to leave it once you’re done with it:
1. A neighbor’s driveway.
2. Your own driveway.
3. The local police precinct house.

I’m Wes Richards, my opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to
© WJR 2013

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