Despite having implemented various measures, supermarkets are still losing quite a number of trolleys, no thanks to inconsiderate shoppers who cart them away for convenience.
Sheng Siong lost an average of 38 trolleys each month from January to July this year, almost double last year's figures. FairPrice saw a 14 per cent drop in lost trolleys but the cooperative with 120 supermarkets and hypermarkets still lost about 100 trolleys a month in the first half of this year. Dairy Farm, which runs Giant and Cold Storage, declined to give figures, adding that the number of trolleys lost was "not significant".
Most of Sheng Siong's trolleys were found at HDB void decks or carparks. But the problem is not restricted to the heartland. FairPrice has also found abandoned trolleys at parks and beaches.
Supermarkets have been trying for years to stem such losses. In 2001, FairPrice piloted a wireless technology at its Hougang outlet - wheels of the trolleys locked up beyond a designated area. "But shoppers still found a way to defeat the system and it was not cost-effective," a FairPrice spokesman said. FairPrice, however, saw some luck with a courtesy campaign it launched in 2010. This involved posters displayed at supermarket exits and taxi stands, urging customers to return their trolleys. The number of lost trolleys fell 67 per cent, a year after the campaign was implemented.
Still, FairPrice is not giving up on leveraging technology to get more trolleys back. Last November, it launched a function for reporting lost trolleys in its My FairPrice supermarket app and so far, it has received 100 reports.
Sheng Siong, which has 33 outlets, sends staff to patrol the vicinity of its shops weekly for lost trolleys. Like Giant, Sheng Siong has a hotline number printed on most of its trolley handles for the public to report lost trolleys. FairPrice said it will display hotline numbers on its trolleys soon.
Shoppers whom The Straits Times spoke to had some suggestions. Administrative assistant Esther Teng, 25, said: "Perhaps we could reward those who report lost trolleys with shopping vouchers" but added "it would be sad if we had to incentivise civic duty with money". Ms Irene Lim, 53, suggested supermarkets install a "loud alarm" that rings when trolleys are carted from restricted areas.
Ms Sarah Lim, a senior retail lecturer at the Singapore Polytechnic Business School, said customers should be made to realise responsible use of trolleys will ultimately benefit them."The more supermarkets save on lost trolleys, the more they have to implement other initiatives that benefit customers."
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