Shopping venture

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Stacked wire shopping carts
Shopping carts with permanently mounted baby seats

A shopping trolley (mostly in Austria: shopping trolley) is a push trolley, usually consisting of a wire basket with four self-steering Castor wheels , which is used to transport the customer's goods in supermarkets . Sometimes it is equipped with a toddler seat or a baby seat. The shopping cart was developed to make it easier for the customer to transport and collect the goods in the market and should therefore be viewed as a further development of the shopping basket.


Wanzl's Concentra shopping trolley, 1957

Shopping carts were first used in the USA in 1937. Sylvan Goldman made a shopping cart available to customers in his Humpty Dumpty supermarket in Oklahoma City - not least to encourage them to make more extensive purchases. In 1940 he applied for a patent for it. In 1946 Orla E. Watson (Kansas City) invented the telescoping shopping cart . This means shopping trolleys that can be nested to save space. With the advent of the self-service principle, there were shopping trolleys for the first time in Germany in 1948, initially probably in Augsburg and Hamburg. These were mobile racks in which two baskets could be hung on top of each other. The entrepreneur Rudolf Wanzl shaped the further development of the car in Germany. In 1950 there were the first models with a fixed basket. Another characteristic of the shopping trolley is the large caster on its wheels , which stabilizes its direction when pushed. To reduce the theft rates in supermarkets , shopping trolleys with modified underframes came onto the market from 1984.

Shopping trolley with a plastic basket

Because of the reduced weight and the resulting improved maneuverability as well as the increasing color CI orientation of retail chains, shopping carts with plastic baskets also became widespread from the 2000s.

Initially without chains, the cars stood around in parking lots or in the countryside. Auxiliary workers - often schoolchildren - then collected the wagons again. Later an attempt was made to persuade the customer to bring the car back by withholding a sum of money as a deposit. Finally, the coin system was introduced in conjunction with the locking chain. However, this system could not establish itself in some countries (e.g. in the USA, South Africa). In order to avoid too many shopping carts being coupled together at the collection points and long lines of shopping carts affecting car traffic in the parking lots, different colored rows of cars were introduced in some shopping centers around 2010. Different shapes of the locking tongues mean that only specimens of the same color can be coupled together, which ensures that the buyer can re-couple his car in the same row that he disconnected it from before shopping.

Shopping carts in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Usual application

Before going shopping in the supermarket, the customer usually first goes to a collection point for shopping carts, where they are pushed into one another and often provided with locking chains. If the car is secured, you put a coin ( deposit ) in the slot, which is usually attached to the handle of a car . This allows the locking chain to be released from the car. Now you push him into the supermarket to go shopping. You put the desired goods in the trolley: small parts in the upper basket, larger or heavier parts such as beverage crates or potting soil in the lower compartment.

When you arrive at the checkout , all of the goods are placed on the conveyor belt. To speed up the checkout process or to relieve the customer, some supermarkets offer the option of placing only one item of a larger amount of the same item on the goods conveyor belt. Then only this is scanned and the staff rebooked the entire amount. In DIY stores, it is also common for the cashier to scan heavy goods or goods that contaminate the conveyor belt with a hand scanner in order to ensure a smooth checkout process. It also prevents the conveyor belt from being soiled. When the goods have been booked by the cashier , they are put back into the car behind the cashier and paid for. With the increasing spread of RFID labels , it will be possible to push a shopping cart filled with goods through a scan tunnel, saving time.

Then you unload the car - be it in the car in the parking lot or, as a pedestrian, at the collection point - and push the car back into the queue of cars at the collection point. If you now put the chain of the last car from the queue of cars into the slot that is attached to the coin box of your own car, you can remove the deposit coin that was initially inserted. If there is no car at the collection point, it is possible to park the car at the first place. A chain is also attached to the boundary of the collection point, with which you can get your coin back.

The usual load limit for ordinary four-wheeled shopping trolleys is approximately 220 kg. In 2012, Stiftung Warentest tested the resilience and load limits of shopping trolleys and came up with significantly higher values ​​of up to a ton before the metal rods deformed. Such a high payload is still not recommended, as otherwise the car can no longer be steered.

Deposit coins

Deposit lock on a shopping cart

A token is pushed into a deposit lock attached to the shopping cart , which releases the locking chain. In modern deposit locks, coins of different sizes (from 50 cent to 2 euro coins or a one and two franc coin ) can be used. The user usually has a matching coin with him and can easily borrow a shopping cart. It is not advisable to put any other objects in the deposit lock as it can be easily damaged.

Employees of supermarkets who are responsible for distributing the trolleys (for example in supermarkets with several entrances) use a special key with which the deposit lock can be unlocked and which can then be pulled out of the slot in the deposit lock.

Special chips (also known as shopping chips or shopping cart chips ), with which you can also unlock the deposit lock, are popular promotional gifts.

In Germany these chips are thinner than the official coins, because according to the local medal ordinance , it is a violation to manufacture and sell chips with the same diameter and thickness as coins. The Nuremberg Higher Regional Court ruled in a judgment of March 20, 2001 (file number 3 U 3914/00):

The production and distribution of shopping trolley chips the size and thickness of a 1 DM item violates § 3 MedVO , § 1  UWG if the procedure is deliberate and planned  .

In connection with deposit coins, there was also the letterhead affair .

In Switzerland, there are still shopping trolleys without a deposit system in rural regions.

Theft and anti-theft systems

Stolen shopping cart

According to an estimate by the Main Association of German Retailers (HDE), around 100,000 shopping carts are stolen every year across Germany. Every 20th shopping cart is stolen within a year. With prices ranging from 80 to 130 euros per item, the damage to the retail chains is considerable.

More shopping trolleys are stolen in Vienna than in comparable German cities. The garbage disposal (MA48) collects the abandoned carts to promote cleanliness and safety and stores them in a hall. Supermarkets pick up their cars around a week for a fee of € 5.50 per item, the remaining ones are scrapped. It is attributed to the use of waste watchers that in Vienna - after 30,150 kidnapped carts in 2006 - only 18,900 carts were found in 2016. Anyone caught misappropriating risks a fine of € 50 or more. According to Ulrike Volk, spokeswoman for MA 48, take-away increases in all those areas where many people live in a confined space and where most of the shopping is done on foot.

Lately there have been anti-theft systems that block the shopping cart when leaving the secured area. A further pushing is no longer possible or only with difficulty. The possible trigger points at the entrances and exits are often marked with a red line and signs. As a rule, two diagonally opposite wheels are equipped with braking devices for this purpose. There are different trigger mechanisms:

  • With the purely mechanical release, the brake is pressed against the wheel by a pre-tensioned spring, but held in the released position by a pawl. Magnets embedded in the floor at the exits pull the pawl towards the floor and thus trigger the blockage. The blocking can be reset by the staff with a key, and at the same time the spring is pretensioned again. Due to the short range of the magnetic fields, this system does not trigger when the trolley is lifted over the magnets.
  • In systems with electrical actuation, a radio receiver is integrated in the wheel brake. Its battery lasts for several years and is changed when the shopping trolley is serviced. An antenna cable is laid underground around the area to be secured and connected to a broadcasting center. When driven over, the antenna signal triggers the blocking of the shopping cart. If you try to lift the car over the line, the blocking is also activated. An unlocking loop on the inside of the red line automatically releases the brake when the car is returned.
  • With systems additionally equipped with a microprocessor, theft of goods can also be prevented. Here the braking system at the entrance to the supermarket is armed via a radio loop. The shopping cart registers that the goods have been paid for at the checkout via another radio link. Only without this registration does the brake block when driving over the radio loop at the exit. An alarm is triggered at the same time. The supermarket staff can release the brake using a radio remote control.

In a test with radio-controlled blocking systems in a supermarket in Cologne, shopping cart thefts were reduced from 20-30 per month to just one in the same period.

Liability and Insurance Law

If a car collides with a shopping cart, the owner of the store to which the car belongs is liable. This also applies if the shopping trolley is driven by the wind and damages a car. The shopkeeper is responsible for ensuring that shopping trolleys are properly secured.

Suppose a customer unloads the shopping cart in the parking lot and loads the goods into his car. If the shopping trolley rolls away and damages another car, the customer's motor vehicle liability insurance pays for the damage. If the customer leaves without waiting for the injured party, this is considered to be an accident escape .

If a customer damages another car with the shopping cart while he is pushing it to his car, his private liability insurance will cover the damage. It is not a case for motor vehicle liability insurance because the damage is not related to the use of a car. Only when the customer's car is open does motor vehicle liability insurance come into play.

However, in countries other than Germany there may well be different judgments and practices of the insurance companies, as these are always based on national law.

Shopping carts in other countries


Large shopping trolley with a basket volume of 315 liters in use in Sweden, model Wanzl EL

The basket sizes of the shopping trolleys in use are significantly larger in Scandinavia than in Germany. Due to the great distances, people shop there less often, but the amount purchased is significantly higher.

United States

Parking assistant at an American supermarket pushing carts together

In the United States , where supermarkets are usually more spacious than in Europe, so that there is more space to put down shopping trolleys, the range of special shapes on offer is significantly more extensive than e.g. B. in Germany. In addition to carriages with baby seats, children's shopping cars and miniature shopping carts, there are especially wagons in which two to three children can ride. In all larger American supermarkets, rollators , conventional wheelchairs for pushing as well as electric wheelchairs with shopping baskets that can also be used by the disabled are common. Hardware stores and cheap supermarkets often provide trolleys with plastic baskets instead of conventional shopping trolleys with metal baskets. In department stores too, customers are often offered shopping trolleys - especially trolleys with child seats.

Securing shopping carts with deposit locks is uncommon in the USA. Only the Aldi chain uses this security method there. In order to limit the risk of damage caused by abandoned shopping carts in the parking lot, far more people are used to handle shopping carts, especially in large supermarkets, than in Germany, for example. For example, in the branches of the Wal-Mart chain, the trolleys are provided in the entrance areas by people greeters . Larger supermarkets generally employ special employees who bring the used trolleys from the parking lot back to the entrance areas; In some supermarkets, these employees also help customers load the goods into the car.

Special forms

In addition to the classic shopping trolley with a metal basket, there are many models for special requirements.

Trolleys for special customers

Modern special transport trolley for hardware stores, model series SP5

There are variants that meet children's need to play. In children's shopping cars, the children sit downstairs in a pushable car; the shopping basket is attached above it.

In many supermarkets, children can push their own miniature shopping cart. These are usually equipped with a flagpole so that they are not overlooked because of their low height. On some models, a handle is mounted on this bar that allows an adult to push the trolley. These miniature shopping carts can be used more often without inserting coins.

For people who are dependent on a wheelchair, there are easily steerable models that can be coupled with the wheelchair.

Trolley for special goods

Special shapes for bulky goods are common in hardware stores and furniture stores . These so-called furniture trolleys usually only have a flat storage surface at foot height; also common for beverage crates. On some models, a wire basket for small items is attached to the push handles.

Car with special technical equipment

Shopping trolleys with integrated reading magnifier for deciphering small letters on product packaging

There are shopping trolleys with a plastic basket for use with cash registers where the goods can be identified and charged on the basis of attached radio tags. The purchased goods can then remain in the shopping cart at the checkout. In this context, there is also a discussion about data protection for shoppers.

Car for special terrain

Shopping carts with special wheels enable shopping carts to be carried easily and safely on moving walks or escalators. The wheels here consist of a non-rotating support surface and two larger wheel discs. These are made so thin that they sink into the slots in the moving walkway surface and the car sits on the support surfaces. As a result, the shopping trolley stands securely on the escalator and the user does not have to use force to hold it.

Virtual “shopping carts” on the Internet

In marketplaces in the Internet can be found since the 2000s, often called electronic cart , a software that allows the customer from a catalog selected merchandise in a list first cache. The products collected in this shopping cart or shopping cart will be settled together at the end. In the discussion of whether it makes sense to allow software patents , the electronic shopping cart is often cited as a negative example. A European patent has been applied for since 1997 .

Shopping carts as an advertising medium

The shopping cart can also be used as an advertising medium. In addition to the classic self-promotion under control, there is also the medium of the so-called cart boards. These posters are located in a specially designed frame on the front of the shopping cart.

Major manufacturers

There are many manufacturers around the world: Caddy, based in Schiltigheim , France, has been in existence since 1928 and sells shopping trolleys in 130 countries. Marsanz, based in Torrejón de Ardoz (Spain, near Madrid ), sells in 80 countries. The Wanzl Metallwarenfabrik GmbH , headquartered in Leipheim , Germany is currently the world's largest manufacturer of shopping carts. A large number of manufacturers have now also emerged in China. Major manufacturers in the United States include a. Unarco, the United Steel Wire Company, and the Americana Companies Inc.

Shopping carts in art, design and consumer society criticism

Suspension files, designed by Otl Aicher, manufactured by the Siegel brothers , Leipheim
Diamond Chair by Harry Bertoia
Homeless man with a transfunctionalized and transformed shopping cart in Paris .
Homeless man with a transfunctionalized and transformed shopping cart in Tokyo .

Since the market launch of the shopping trolley , shopping trolley manufacturers such as Caddy , Wanzl and Brothers Siegel have cultivated intensive direct and indirect business relationships with artists, graphic designers, industrial and furniture designers such as Charles Eames , Harry Bertoia , Verner Panton and Rido Busse - not only for new and further developments of theirs own shopping trolleys and wire basket goods, but also for advertising and PR purposes. Olivier Mourgue, Otl Aicher , Stiletto a . v. a. Designers had wire furniture or works of art made by shopping cart manufacturers.

One of the best-known uses of a shopping cart in art is the consumer-critical sculpture "Supermarket Lady" by the US pop art artist Duane Hanson from 1970.

In 1983 the Berlin artist Stiletto converted a 'stray' Wanzl shopping cart into an upturned ' cantilever wire chair based on the objet trouvé principle . When design- and consumerist culture-critical design simulation rekurrierte by Stiletto ironically "Consumer's Rest" Lounge Chair titled work that already Eames and Bertoia's wire furniture überästhetisierte adaptations of contemporary emergence of shopping carts in the USA and even have recursion on the consumer-revolutionary context of the international style in architecture and design.

The by far most stolen, not returned and abandoned shopping carts are, however, misused by occasional second and second users without any artistic or culturally critical ready-made intentions as emergency solutions - among other things as improvised furniture ( e.g. as a laundry basket), or universal nomad furniture for the household effects of the homeless , or disregarding the fact that the zinc and plastic coatings of the wire surfaces are harmful to health when heated, as an ad hoc grill.

In 2016, a stolen, 10 m long maypole was transported in Vienna with several shopping carts.


Web links

Wiktionary: shopping cart  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Shopping cart  - collection of images

Individual evidence

  4. Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety , accessed August 25, 2015
  5. ProSieben video about the test by Stiftung Warentest ( Memento from September 11, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  6. ^ Willy Schneider: Operative Marketing. Targeted use of marketing tools. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 2013. ISBN 978-3-486-73311-2 . P. 270.
  7. Supermarkets buy stolen wagons back, accessed August 15, 2017
  8. Manufacturer homepage Radlok Trolley Retention System ( Memento from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) (English)
  9. Manufacturer homepage shopping trolley security from Rocateq ( Memento from October 19, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  10. Manufacturer homepage Purchek pushout theft solution ( Memento of April 4, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) (English)
  11. Cost control: Aldi's immobilizer for shopping carts on, accessed on July 5, 2013
  13. Duane Hanson at the Aachen Ludwig Forum ( Memento from April 14, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  15. Paragraph from the folding chair to the shopping cart in Claudia Falter: “Shopping”, p. 1007ff u. Fig. P. 1017, in Im Designerpark | Life in artificial worlds , Kai Buchholz and Klaus Wolbert (eds.), Hä Verlag, Darmstadt, 2004, ISBN 3-89552-100-0
  16. Victor Papanek
  17. Stolen maypole with Bim transported away, May 3, 2016, accessed December 20, 2017.