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Handbaskets Inside Shopping Carts

Submitted by Roger Knights

Shipping containers reduced cargo-handling by 90% and thereby facilitated ocean shipping. “Shopping containers" (handbaskets contained within a shopping cart) similarly reduce “cargo handling" at the checkout lane. Only two or three handbaskets need be lifted out, not 20 or 30 pieces of “cargo." 

Here’s how it works: Place a pair of handbaskets inside your shopping cart. Place the items you buy inside the handbaskets. If you expect you might need more than two handbaskets, nest a third inside the second. When the first handbasket is filled, lift out the nested basket and place it atop the full basket. (Or on the lower level of the cart.) Now fill the empty baskets. 

A fourth handbasket could be pressed into service in a similar fashion. In fact, because two baskets can be stored on the cart’s lower level, up to six handbaskets could be employed. This would enable shoppers to buy a large quantity of items without overflowing their cart. The store wouldn’t need to buy a few super-size shopping carts to accommodate them. Other advantages are:

  1. There’s no need to use the separator bar (or whatever its official name is) to delineate ones purchases from those of adjacent shoppers. 
  2. There’s less chance of goods getting damaged. E.g., of dropping a glass jar on the floor.
  3. There’s less chance of forgetting to “swipe" the club card, because there’s more time to remember to do so, and because one feels less frazzled and distracted.
  4. There’s more chance of items staying “grouped." E.g., since all produce is in one handbasket, all cans & bottles in another, all the rest in a third, this will result in a more “grouped" shopping receipt, and (usually) in more “grouped" shopping bags as well. These will be easier to unpack at home, since the contents of each bag will (more likely) be headed for the same destination (e.g., the fridge, freezer, kitchen cabinet, etc.).

Isn’t it amazing that no one's thought of this (or anyway publicized this) before? (At least it’s new in my West Seattle Safeway’s. The three clerks to whom I demonstrated it wonderingly indicated they’d never seen the like.) 

NB: The cashier who emptied the baskets said it was no harder for him to do so than to grab individual items off the conveyor belt, even though a bit more lifting was required. I suspect this extra lifting is offset by not having to worry about knocking over a milk carton or setting something rolling, and by not having to lean out over the belt to pluck out all items of each type. (E.g., all the avocados, etc., are “together" (in the basket) and are right at hand.) If a cashier would prefer the items to be loose, the handbaskets can easily be tipped over to empty them.

Incidentally—or not so incidentally—at a wholesale-club store fewer items need be hauled out of the cart at the checkout stand. For instance, instead of a dozen cans of tuna or cartons of yogurt, the shopper removes only a single case. This, I believe, is a hidden attraction of shopping at such places. Supermarkets could counter this appeal by promoting use of “shopping containers."

A first step would be to test whether shoppers actually would enjoy this technique. A pilot study would ask employees at one store to use shopping containers when they shop themselves, as a test, and then report back on their experiences.

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