Reimagining the shopping cart

Saw this today and thought it was pretty incredible:

It’s such a chaotic process, but I really liked the idea of trying to fail as fast and as many times as possible to get to a solution.

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Awesome, thank you for sharing that. I’ve always said that it’s really easy to kill an idea. Their process makes sure none of those die.

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That video must be at least 20 years old, yet I haven’t seen shopping carts change — they still use the same awful basic design as they did 50 years ago. I wonder why stores and shopping cart manufacturers are stuck when there’s so much room for improvement.

I can hardly argue with Ideo since the company’s success speaks for itself. However, I detest group brainstorming sessions like those depicted in the video. I dislike them even more than open office plans.

From my experience, brainstorming sessions almost always produce mediocre results while wasting time and resources. One reason is that the most charismatic, gregarious, socially skilled, and articulate team members dominate the sessions. The ideas coming from the more introverted team members tend to get overwhelmed in the process.

I rarely used brainstorming sessions at companies where I was the CD. There’s a place for both extroverts and introverts, but when it comes to delving deep into ideas, I’ve found that introverts have the edge. When it comes to selling ideas and pushing them forward, extroverts always win.

In open brainstorming sessions, the dynamic shifts in favor of the pushers instead of the thinkers, no matter how well it’s moderated.

I could write more, but Susan Cain already did it ten years ago.

If you hit their paywall, here’s a PDF:

Best shopping cart innovation I’ve seen is from Aldi. No one steals their carts, no one abandons them. Customers always return them to the front of the store and the store doesn’t have to waste staff time rounding them up, or paying a retrieval service to patrol the city to round up their carts. The carts all interlock, like the luggage carts at the airport. Put a quarter in and it unlocks the cart so you can use it. Dock it with the other carts when you’re done and you get it back. If someone is too lazy to return it, someone else will jump on it and return the cart and claim the quarter, like in the Tom Hanks movie The Terminal.

When the store was built a few years ago I remember reading all the outrage on Nextdoor about the 25 cent deposit, moaning about the decline of customer service. But I walk around the neighborhood a lot and see abandoned carts all the time from the other stores, but never one from Aldi. Brilliant design. I don’t know why the other stores haven’t copied it.


That does seem like a great idea, but I rarely (as in never) carry change around with me. I’m sure I’d soon learn to keep a few quarters in the car if I shopped there.

The supermarket we use most often sits on a slope with the main parking lot on the down side of that slope. I can’t count the times I’ve seen abandoned carts (and a few full ones) careening down the hill, picking up speed, and eventually smashing into a car at the bottom of the parking lot. Consequently, we always park on the far side of the store, even though it’s a longer walk.

Engineering a centifugal-force-driven speed governor for the cart wouldn’t be difficult. Then again, the whole shopping cart thing is a problem needing a solution. Why a shopping cart manufacturer hasn’t bought and patented Ideo’s design is a mystery.

Yesterday, I read a story on CNN that said nobody likes self-checkout kiosks at supermarkets. I must be an exception because I head straight for them — except when I have vegetables, fruit, and loose bulk items that need to be looked up and weighed. I know it’s possible, but I have no clue how to handle that part of the process. Again, this seems like a solvable problem for a good design team.

People will resist change. :man_shrugging: sometimes it isn’t the design, it’s the marketing

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I’m imagining a cart that you can take home with you. One that has wheels and legs that fold up so you can place it into your trunk or backseat. Maybe throw some handles on the sides.

FYI Aldi’s cart system is brilliant and helps keep costs way down. They have a little, almost weightless keychain bob that you slip a quarter in and it’s always with you. :slight_smile:


Truer words were never spoken. :thinking:

As long as I can still jump on the back and ride downhill to my car, I don’t care. A shopping cart is a shopping cart. :slight_smile:


Living in the digital world is not necessarily a good thing. It’s taking me that long to realize you meant shopping cart, not shopping cart.

Haha, I started there too!

Wait… what??? You guys only have that a few years???

It’s been here in Ireland for about 20 years.

Some stores require €1 and some require a €2 coin.

I have a keychain with magnetic detachable coin the size of 1 and 2 euro coins that I use to detach trolleys.

One of the best innovations is with Tesco stores, they allow a Scan as you shop. So you scan your produce as you shop, it totals it, and you bag it.

Great advantage, as you can bag all your veg separately, all your meat, all your frozen stuff (in special bags for freezer food) - etc.

When you get to the tllls you don’t have to queue with the others, there’s a special Scan As You Shop Area - you scan the barcode at the til, it tots it all up.

Here you’re thinking, great I can steal stuff and nobody will know but that’s the kicker, there’s random checks of the trolley, a red light goes off and an assistant comes over, and scans 20 items all over the trolley.

Not only have you saved time scanning your produce and totting up the shop as you go - you’ve already bagged your shopping - you’ve skipped queues.
You don’t have to empty your trolley onto a conveyor belt, and then bag everything.

In fact, I just walk in, bag up all my stuff, and then go to an empty till - tap my phone (as I have Google Pay) and walk out with all my stuff - while others are stood in lengthy queues.

I then go back to the trolley bay in the car park and reclaim my token from my keychain and reattach it.

Yes, Aldi has only been in California for 6 years. None of the other grocery chains here have those types of carts. The US can be incredibly advanced in some ways, and completely Illogical and ass-backwards in others.

That wouldn’t work in the US. A $1 coin exists but rarely used, and most people wouldn’t recognize it. And I think most Americans would freak out over that amount, even though it’s just a refundable deposit.

Amazon Fresh is a new chain around here and they have smart carts. The carts also track you and make recommendations via an interactive screen. They’ve also got voice activated kiosks around the store where you can ask questions, which is similar to an idea in the IDEO video.

Here in the hinterlands of the wild West, we have no such modern conveniences beyond indoor plumbing and the occasional paved road covered with tumbleweeds.

Sometimes newfangled ideas work their way in by stagecoach or Pony Express from California, but not this one.

Wait… what??? You guys only have that a few years???
It’s been here in Ireland for about 20 years.
Some stores require €1 and some require a €2 coin.

Here in Austria we too have that at least since then. But somehow some supermarkets seem to have stopped it. Chains are still there but loose without coin. People still return all their carts. Maybe we just got used to it in some locations. He may have been conditioned to do it. :grin:

Yes I’ve heard of these shops.

It was reported as on the way back in February 2021

I do remember the days a trolley collector would come around the housing estate and pick up the trolleys.

Back in those days there was predominately 1 person working and the partner/wife/husband would stay at home. And there was only 1 car (if any) to a household.

So being able to wheel a trolley of groceries home was a necessity. I remember my mother had to wheel home trolleys in hot weather, snow, ice, etc. cos my Dad was in work and was the only driver in the family.

I myself wheeled a full shopping trolley home I was probably about 10 or 11 years of age at the time and my mother was sick so the shopping had to be done.

But nowadays, the trolleys have a locking mechanism on the wheels if they go past a certain point at the gates leaving the car park. So you can’t bring a trolley home even if you wanted to.

But then trolleys got damaged, and the cost of replacing them - or people were holding on to them to bring back for next weeks shop or something like that.

Eventually, a keychain was introduced and the cost of losing your 1 euro or 2 euro is a big deal apparently.

The other part of this which is problematic was that people left the trolley in the car park and it rolled and damaged other cars.

What thieves caught on to was people weren’t locking their cars bringing back the trolley.
So as you walked to the trolley bay - a car pulled up to your boot (trunk) and opened it - took your groceries and closed the boot (trunk).

You come back to the car - drive home - and go to unload the boot (trunk) and it’s empty. Groceries stolen and thieves are gone.

If it does become normal - lock your car for the short trolley drop off.

I lock my car if the carriage return corral is more than 50’ away in full line of sight of the car.