The Reason Aldi Fans Can't Stop Talking About This Abandoned Shopping Cart

Yesterday, on Reddit, a photo of a cart unceremoniously left on a gravel island in a parking lot appeared in the Aldi subreddit under the title "I swear, California does not believe in getting their quarter back." The point is that Aldi's rent-a-cart system requires a person to pay a quarter to use a cart, which is then refunded when the cart is returned, but doesn't necessarily take into account people too lazy or too rich to care about losing a quarter.

The responses garnered by the photo broadly agreed that one of the nicest feelings was to hand over a rented cart to a customer about to enter the store and declare that no, you do not in fact need the quarter. The most perceptive commenters, however, noted that even in the case of lazy customers, Aldi's system still functions, as the next person also has an incentive to return the cart and receive what amounts to a free quarter.

The rent-a-cart system keeps other costs down

The quarter system for Aldi's carts is emblematic of the chain's efforts to hold down costs. As explained by Aisle of Shame, the Aldi fan blog, Aldi's rent-a-cart system means the company no longer has to hire extra employees to retrieve the carts and return them to the store for the use of the next customers. They also note, like the Redditors chatting above, that Aldi etiquette is to offer any newly arrived customers your cart, or leaving a paid cart by the store in a practice called "paying it forward."

Asking for a cart deposit also saves money by giving the cart user a stake in returning the cart. In 2011, NBC reported that shopping cart thefts cost stores $75 to $250 per cart stolen. One solution to that problem is to install anti-theft systems that lock the cart when its leaves a set perimeter. But that approach would probably be far more expensive. Instead, Aldi opts to bet that their customers will return the cart for which they paid a quarter.