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I recently saw a video of an American abroad who seemed quite astonished about things like shopping cart conveyors (edit: I have now learned that the correct term is "inclined moving walkway") or shopping cart coins (where shopping carts are locked unless you put a coin into them.)

It was quite entertaining because such devices have been totally commonplace for several decades where I live (inside EU).

Do such things not exist in the US?

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    In fairness, the person on that video also seemed impressed that the supermarket in question sold bread, so it's not like he is a particularly high intelligence person.
    – Doc
    Commented Feb 21 at 15:51
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    – Willeke
    Commented Feb 23 at 5:29

3 Answers 3

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Both exist, but are somewhat uncommon.

Shopping cart coins are used in the US, although it's retailer-dependent. It's not very common in most places, but some stores like Aldi often have them. Different stores have used them over the past several decades.

Shopping cart conveyors also exist in the US, but I might venture to say they're less common than in Europe. The vast majority of US supermarkets I've visited are on a single floor with an outdoor parking lot and simply have no need for a cart escalator. Only occasionally in large cities have I seen a second-floor supermarket, but they'll usually have a cart escalator if people are actually expected to move their cart between floors. It wouldn't be out of the question for an American to have never seen a cart conveyor, though, as many people outside cities wouldn't have ever seen a multi-level supermarket.

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  • The Target in Albuquerque NM has a nice cart conveyor/escalator. (Too bad I don’t have a pic to share.)
    – Dúthomhas
    Commented Feb 22 at 6:54
  • Also the multi-story Targets in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Target, by the way, is more of a department store than a supermarket, although many do have a grocery section Commented Feb 22 at 7:34
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    Fun fact, if you look at the wikipedia article on shopping cart conveyors their example picture is actually in the US.
    – quarague
    Commented Feb 22 at 10:29
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    "some stores like Aldi often have them" ALDI is a German company, so it might be that it's simply part of their standard procedures.
    – Tom
    Commented Feb 22 at 16:00
  • @Dúthomhas I'm guessing you mean the Up Town shopping center in ABQ?
    – Peter M
    Commented Feb 22 at 19:16
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For the downvoters: the answers to both questions are yes, they do. However there are reasons why they're much rarer in the US than in Europe.

If you disagree with the answer (the facts in it, not the existence of the writer which I know triggers some of you), feel free to leave a comment.


European/Asian supermarkets are built differently than American, and so is their currency systems.

In the US supermarkets are mostly flat single story very large buildings. Only in more urbanized areas where land is harder to get you'll see multi-storied supermarkets (I saw in New York, for example, or in the Bay Area), and those do have escalators often times. I used such an escalator in Target in a couple of places.

As to coins, in Europe there are high denomination coins. Don't know about Russia specifically, but in EUR zone you can get up to 2EUR denominations. Thus using coins as a security deposit is more meaningful enough for people to want to return their carts.

In the US the highest denomination of coins in circulation (not collectibles) is $1, but even that is rarely used and a lot of people don't even know it exists. I've never seen the $0.50 coin in circulation (although it technically exists), so the highest actually used is $0.25. Not a very big motivator. But yes, some stores do use them as security deposit as well.

In the US they also have, in many places, geo-barriers. Cart wheels lock up when taken beyond a certain perimeter on the parking lot. This is much more effective than a small and meaningless deposit against carts being stolen, while isn't onerous on the customers either.

The person you saw on TV (Tucker Carson) is a propagandist and is there to deliver the message "America is bad, Russia is good", so don't take it as a genuine amazement by something he's never seen before. Although I doubt he's been to any US supermarket any time recently either.

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    The highest denomination of coins in circulation in the Eurozone is 2€, higher denominations are collectibles only. The most common denomination used for shopping carts is 1€, though over the last decades, a lot of supermarkets have changed to systems allowing also 2€ and 0,50€. Especially the latter is hardly more of a motivator than $0.25 would be, so I don't think coin denominations are the main reason why cart coins are common in Europe but not in the US.
    – Sabine
    Commented Feb 21 at 19:13
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    Large parking lots sounds more probable to me :). Plus, I have only been to a US supermarket 3 or 4 times in my life, they have always been somewhere near the highway, where you wouldn't have been able to walk the cart anywhere, whereas supermarkets in Germany are often right next to a residential area, which might also be a reason. Btw, german supermarkets usually have some 5-10 "return points" for shopping carts, there's not one single location to return the carts to.
    – Sabine
    Commented Feb 21 at 20:15
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    Many shops in the Netherlands actually provide free non-currency coins to put in the shopping cart. Often with the ability to attach to your key chain, like these. So it's not really about the denominations.
    – Ivo
    Commented Feb 23 at 7:27
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    I've been under the impression that this coin trick is not here to prevent stealing the carts (a cart is far more expensive than 10 CZK after all), but to encourage people to return them to the area allotted for them rather than just leave them in the parking zone.
    – ach
    Commented Feb 23 at 10:36
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    @sabine I don't think coin carts are common in Canada either and they have loonies and twonies which, if I am correct, would suggest denominations are not a factor.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Feb 23 at 19:49
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Do American supermarkets have shopping cart conveyors or shopping cart coins?

Some do. Here is an example of shopping cart coins at an Aldi store near Los Angeles:

enter image description here

(Author: Alessio Sangalli)

Shopping cart conveyors are also present in the US, e.g. see this video or this report: Eadie, Tisha (February 1, 2005). "Shopping Carts Used At Multi-Level Retailers? An Impossibility No More!". Elevator World. Elevator World, Inc.: 61–63.

It was quite entertaining

Acting ignorant to get more views.

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    Aldi is german firm (in Germany called Aldi Süd), so it should be no surprise that they use the same cart system. Originaly a 1 DM coin was used. Commented Feb 21 at 20:59
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    Aldi süd may use the coin-locked carts, but I haven't seen them at other german-owned supermarkets in the US. Theo Albricht (owner of Aldi Nord) owned Trader Joe's since 1979 and they do not use coin-locked carts, nor does lidl in my experience.
    – artemist
    Commented Feb 22 at 5:38
  • @MarkJohnson it's not called Aldi Süd in Germany, just Aldi. While technically the company that owns all stores is called that the stores themselves are just called Aldi just like in the US.
    – Ivo
    Commented Feb 23 at 7:36
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    @Ivo The logo itsself contains the word Süd (The logo for Aldi Nord contains only Aldi without Nord). Just because most peaple leave out the Nord/Süd in everyday coversations, doesn't change the name of the company. Aldi – Wikipedia and Das Aldi-Logo: Darum wirkt es auf uns so "billig", aber erinnerungswürdig - wmn Commented Feb 23 at 10:24

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