NTUC FairPrice (FairPrice) and the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) today launched a joint appeal to shoppers to be considerate and to return the trolley after use for other shoppers to use.
The persistent and industry wide problem of unreturned trolleys has prompted FairPrice to step up its ‘Please Return Trolley’ campaign in anticipation of more trolley losses during festive seasons. On average, FairPrice sees 200 trolleys taken out of its stores every month. This costs about $150,000 a year to repair, replace and retrieve unreturned trolleys. Last year, close to 300 trolleys were not returned during the Lunar New Year period alone. FairPrice has a total of 6,000 trolleys across its stores islandwide.
Over the years, FairPrice has implemented several measures to address this problem. In 1993, FairPrice initiated a system where shoppers were asked to leave behind some form of personal identification as a deposit for every trolley taken out of the supermarket. The personal IDs were returned only after the trolleys were brought back to the store. The system worked but not successfully enough and shoppers found it inconvenient.
In 1994, FairPrice was the first supermarket in Singapore to implement the $1 coin system to encourage shoppers to return their trolleys. To increase convenience for customers, FairPrice also set up additional trolley return bays at taxi stands and car parks.
In 2001, it conducted a pilot test at its Hougang branch where it fitted the wheels of the trolleys with a sensor and embedded magnetic strips on underground cables around the building. Called the Radlock system, the trolley wheels would automatically lock up when the trolley crosses the boundaries. This was however not implemented across the outlets as it costs more than $100,000 to implement the system at one store and it did not prevent customers from taking the trolleys out of the boundary.
In May 2009, it launched a series of public education initiatives including putting up educational posters and making public announcements in its stores. This initiative helped FairPrice to recover about 50 percent of unreturned trolleys through customer reports.
In its latest effort to get to the heart of the problem, FairPrice commissioned an independent survey to explore shoppers’ attitude towards trolley return and assess possible new measures that could mitigate the problem.
The survey was conducted by an independent research company during 7 to 17 January 2010. A total of 356 face-to-face interviews were conducted. Of these respondents, 300 were “trolley returners” and 56 were “trolley abandoners”.
Key Survey Findings
Mr Seah Kian Peng, FairPrice’s Managing Director (Group Business) said, “Trolleys are provided as a service to all our customers to help them shop with convenience in our stores, especially for customers who buy a lot of items or heavy items. It is not meant to be used as a vehicle to transport their purchases home. I am glad that the survey revealed that most shoppers agree that it is the responsibility of shoppers to return the trolley after use and that they believe it is inconsiderate to abandon trolleys. The challenge for FairPrice is how to convert this civic awareness into responsible and considerate shopping behavior at all levels of the public.”
FairPrice has won the support of the Singapore Kindness Movement, to work together to appeal to the public to cultivate responsible and considerate shopping behavior. The message is simple – Be Considerate. Please Return Trolley After Use. Shoppers who habitually return the trolley after use, are also encouraged to prompt others to do so.
There are several cases of shoppers abandoning the trolleys near their housing block or using it for overnight camping by the seafront and thereafter abandoning by the beach. Such actions can pose safety hazards to the general public and in other instances where the trolleys are deliberately damaged, these become acts of vandalism.
Mr Teh Thien Yew, General Manager of SKM said, “It’ll be good if we can all become more aware of the need for considerate behaviour and to think of other shoppers who will need to use the trolley as much as you. So please return the trolley after use, perhaps with a smile or to say ‘have a nice day’ if someone else is waiting to use the trolley.”
In addition to SKM’s support, FairPrice is looking for help from the community leaders and schools to help educate the public on being considerate when using the trolley for their shopping so that there is always a trolley available for the next user.