All ALDI shoppers know you need to bring some loose change if you want to use a shopping cart there. Deposit a quarter, do your shopping, then get your quarter back when you return the cart. Some might wonder why other grocery stores haven’t adopted that system.

Shoppers in central Pennsylvania aren’t wondering anymore. And many aren’t happy about it.

The locally-owned Weis Markets, which operates about 200 stores in Pennsylvania and surrounding states, has begun testing out an ALDI-like “quarter-for-a-cart” system at several of its Pennsylvania stores in recent weeks. Shoppers insert a quarter into a slot to unlock the cart, and after shopping and unloading their groceries, they return the cart to a drop-off location and get their quarter back.

“It’s designed to help keep our prices low, make sure we have enough shopping carts in convenient locations, and minimize theft and damage to cars caused by loose carts,” Weis spokesman Dennis Curtin explained in a statement.

Such a system is commonplace in other parts of the world, and the German discount grocer ALDI familiarized Americans with the phenomenon when it required a quarter for a cart in all of its U.S. stores. “This 25 cent deposit ultimately saves our customers money because we don’t have to hire extra staff to collect grocery carts,” ALDI explains on its website. “This deposit ensures shoppers return their cart to the corral to get their quarter back.”

It’s long been one of the accepted quirks of shopping at the low-cost, no-frills ALDI. But will shoppers put up with it at their full-service grocery store? Opponents of any new system always seem to be more vocal than supporters, so it’s difficult to tell whether opponents of Weis’s new system speak for the majority. But they’ve certainly been vocal in their complaints.

“If I want to shop at Aldi I’ll go to %@$&* Aldi,” one disgruntled Weis shopper wrote on Twitter X. “Weis should not be Aldi.” Another shopper told Weis that “Aldi only gets away with the shopping cart quarter because of their prices. Unless you plan to rival their prices I will not shop at Weis anymore if it requires my free labor.”


Shoppers with long memories may recall this isn’t the first time a grocery chain not named ALDI has tried a coin-for-cart system. It became something of a craze in the 1980’s and 90’s, with many grocers hailing it as the next new thing – before most of them quickly abandoned it.

In 1996, upstate New York’s Tops Friendly Markets began experimenting with charging shoppers a 25-cent deposit for carts, then gave up just six weeks later. “Our customers responded that they didn’t like it,” then-CEO Larry Castellani told the Buffalo News. “We took their reaction seriously and eliminated the program.” The former Alpha Beta grocery chain in California tried a similar system in the mid-80’s but “charging people for a cart didn’t fit in with giving customer service,” a company executive admitted to the Los Angeles Times. Lucky Stores, which later acquired Alpha Beta, conducted its own quarter-for-carts experiment at around the same time, but shut it down after three months. “The customer response was fairly negative,” a company spokesperson told the San Francisco Chronicle. And Safeway reportedly lost more carts to theft after installing the coin-operated carts in several stores, presumably taken by those who didn’t feel like returning their cart and figured a quarter was a small price to pay to keep it.

“We recognize that this is almost re-educating or retraining our customers,” a Safeway spokesperson told the Chronicle back in 1994, in defending its new system. “The last thing we want to do is lose them.” Once they did start losing customers – and carts – they ditched the idea altogether.

So it’s back to the future for Weis, which is now attempting the same solution to an age-old problem, for a brand-new generation. But training this generation of shoppers to deposit a quarter for a shopping cart comes with unique challenges that didn’t exist a few decades ago.

“Who even carries coins?” one incredulous customer tweeted. “What a dumb idea, Weis. How many people actually carry change? Probably not many,” another echoed. Others saw the system as just another sign of eroding customer service. “Yet another way grocery stores are shifting worker responsibilities onto shoppers,” another Weis customer tweeted. “It started with you having to bag your own groceries. Then they took away cashiers. Now you’ll be the one taking your cart back to the front of the store so yet another worker they can cut.”

“We understand this will be an adjustment for some customers,” company spokesman Curtin said. “We’ll have quarters available for customers who need them to help with the transition. We also, as always, have hand baskets for smaller orders.”

And those hand baskets are still free for shoppers to use, no deposit required. At least for now.

Image source: F Delventhal


  1. exactly. As a former retailer whose carts kept disappearing I would welcome any chain retail company to follow suit

  2. People bitch and moan about the dumbest s**t

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