walmart shopping carts

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Does it really cost money to use Walmart shopping carts?

Is Walmart really charging for shopping carts to be used? If they were, they wouldn't be the first.


Kahron Spearman


Posted on Sep 18, 2023   Updated on Sep 19, 2023, 6:07 pm CDT

Social media was abuzz when a Walmart shopper in Halifax, Nova Scotia, highlighted a gadget supposedly charging $1 for shopping cart use. As we reported, the video, uploaded by Jordan Bonaparte, gained traction quickly, and the claim? Walmart shopping carts would now cost customers money to use them.

But is this actually true?

Understanding Walmart shopping carts and the locking device

As shown in viral TikToks, the locking device labeled with “$1” seemed to tell customers that a fee was imminent. However, this isn’t a fee but a deposit system, an approach more prevalent in Europe and Canada than in the U.S. Here’s how it works: to detach a cart from its station, you insert a coin. Once you’ve finished shopping and returned the cart, the coin is returned to you, as a Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article explained.

This isn’t a revolutionary system—Aldi, an international grocer with over 2,200 U.S. locations and German roots, has a similar 25-cent deposit policy. 

As it explains on its site, “This 25-cent deposit ultimately saves our customers money because we don’t have to hire extra staff to collect grocery carts. To unlock a cart, customers have to insert a quarter, and this deposit ensures shoppers return their cart to the corral to get their quarter back.”

Why do you need a quarter for a shopping cart?

The main objective? It’s about responsibility and cleanliness. With a deposit system, carts aren’t randomly scattered around parking lots. This reduces potential damage to vehicles and ensures that carts are available for other shoppers. As a bonus, stores can reduce staffing costs, as employees need to retrieve carts less, as noted in a CNN report. Aldi openly acknowledges that this system saves on staffing, theoretically keeping product prices low.

Also, the shopping cart has long been seen as a bug-a-boo since its inception. “A new menace is threatening the safety of motorists in stores,” the New York Times claimed in a 1962 article. “It is the shopping cart.”

A previous New York Times article, in 1957, called attention to the “cart-napping” trend.

Retail chains have a good reason to adopt this approach. The deposit system deters shopping cart theft, a surprisingly common occurrence. Stolen carts can be used personally or sold as scrap metal. The result? Retailers bear the extra costs of replacing or repairing these carts, indirectly driving up customer prices.

Why is a Walmart shopping cart a dollar in Canada?

While dollar coins might seem unusual in the U.S., they’re pretty standard in Canada. Thus, a $1 deposit makes more sense there. The TikTok video that started this debate was shot in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Another northern Ontario Walmart location also hinted at implementing this system soon.

Walmart’s official statement on shopping carts

According to the Krazy Coupon Lady site, Walmart clarified its stance in response to the uproar. Selected Walmart Canada stores have initiated this deposit system to ensure cart availability and proper return. It’s a practice adopted by many discount retailers in Canada.

However, U.S. Walmart stores are currently looking to embrace something other than this system. The corporation has confirmed no new policy charges for carts at U.S. locations.

Why else are people paying attention to Walmart shopping carts?

Controversy hit during the summer of 2023, when Walmart rolled out a new shopping cart design that wasn’t universally beloved. According to USA Today, it started with a Facebook post from a Kentucky Walmart back in July, but Labor Day coverage from the national paper gave it a signal boost.

They were touted as being slightly taller plus having a phone holder and a cup holder. Some shorter customers complained that it hurt them after pushing them around the store. One groused, “Someone definitely did not think things through with the design. It’s the most ridiculous thing to come out.”

The last word on Walmart shopping carts

Walmart in Canada is not charging for shopping carts, as verified by Verify This. They’ve merely joined the ranks of other retailers implementing a cart deposit system. This system promotes responsibility among customers and ensures cleaner, more organized parking spaces.

And for U.S. Walmart shoppers concerned about this “fee”? Rest easy. The next time you visit your local Walmart, you won’t need to scramble for spare change.

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*First Published: Sep 18, 2023, 5:38 pm CDT