Customers are stealing shopping baskets instead of buying bags, NJ supermarkets say

Shortly after New Jersey enacted a strict plastic bag ban three months ago, employees at the Aberdeen ShopRite noticed something unusual — the store’s handheld plastic shopping baskets were vanishing.

They soon realized brazen shoppers who didn’t bring their own bags and didn’t want to buy 33-cent reusable bags were simply leaving the store with their groceries stuffed in the shopping baskets.

“They were taking them out and never returned,” said an Aberdeen ShopRite employee who declined to give her name. “We went down to no hand baskets at all.”

And the Monmouth County store is not buying new shopping baskets, making the bins the latest grocery store convenience to disappear in the aftermath of the plastic bag ban.

“If we get more, people are going to steal them again,” the employee added.

New Jersey banned single-use plastic bags at all store registers in addition to paper bags at large grocery stores on May 4. The bag ban bill was signed into law in November 2020, giving stores and customers 18 months to prepare.

Despite the lengthy warning, several grocery stores across the state report unprepared customers are flouting basic shopping rules and common decency by stealing handheld baskets.

“While most customers have adapted, unfortunately our members have seen an uptick in customers taking the store baskets and not returning them,” said Mary Ellen Peppard, the vice president of the New Jersey Food Council, a group that represents the state’s grocers and supermarkets. .

“These baskets are expensive and some stores have decided not to replace the baskets,” she said.

Peppard noted the baskets typically cost $8, but may have risen in price due to inflation.

Michael Tarya, an employee at the ShopRite of Metro Plaza in Jersey City, said his store’s handheld baskets were removed May 1 in advance of the start of the platic bag ban a few days later.

A spokeswoman for ShopRite said hand basket thefts were “a larger industry issue,” but could not say how many locations have removed the baskets entirely.

Hand baskets are still available at the Flemington ShopRite, but since the bag ban some people have used them to bring items to their car and haven’t returned, said Shannon George, catering coordinator at the Hunterdon County store. Signage now instructs customers the baskets cannot leave the store, she said.

ShopRite isn’t the only grocer dealing with the thefts.

An employee at the Midland Park Acme in Bergen County said her store did not have any shopping baskets in stock this week because people were taking them. When asked if baskets were available at an Acme in Woodbury in Gloucester County, an employee said “right now, no, because everybody steals them.”

Over at the Bloomfield Stop and Shop, assistant manager Dan Adams said the Essex County store’s baskets have consistently been stolen since the store eliminated free plastic bags.

“Every time we order 15 or 30 hand baskets, within a week they’re gone,” Adams said. “I order them every other week.”

Stefanie Shuman, a spokeswoman for Stop and Shop, confirmed customers at her chain are also raiding the stacks of shopping baskets.

“Like other retailers across the state, we have experienced theft of our handheld shopping baskets — an unintended consequence of the ban on plastic and paper bags,” she said.

A spokesperson for Whole Foods Market also said their stores have “experienced issues with customers taking handbaskets as a result of the bag ban. However, we have not removed handbaskets from our stores at this time.”

Not all chains are running low on shopping baskets. Marcie Rivera, a spokeswoman for Wegmans, said the chain is not having a problem with basket thefts. Spokespeople for Trader Joe’s, Acme, Aldi and Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But grocers say brazen basket thefts are not something that only happens in Jersey. Other states have also seen an uptick in handheld basket pilfering after enacting plastic bag bans.

In 2020, the baskets began disappearing from a Safeway in Redmond, Oregon, after a plastic bag ban went into effect. Other store clerks in Bend also reported missing baskets, according to NewsChannel 21. Grocers also reported similar thefts in Connecticut, Wyoming and Seattle.

Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.

Brianna Kudisch may be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button
DRAGONINKHOUSE