This column appears in the 5/22 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 5/23 issue of the Peoria Times...and, yet again, has nothing to do with sports
Peoria is great, for the most part. There are quiet, friendly neighborhoods, lots of fun stuff to do, and even an IHOP, which is great, because I love that strawberry syrup that they have there. But something has been plaguing the city for years now, and it’s pretty much the only thing holding Peoria back from becoming a respected part of the state.
I remember it was around a year ago when my wife and I traveled to Peoria to start looking for houses. The city was beautiful, of course, and we knew it was where we wanted to start the next chapter of our lives. But still -- everywhere we looked we saw shopping carts. Taking up parking spaces at the local grocery store. Hanging out on the corner smoking cigarettes. Sometimes we’d be driving and a shopping cart would pass us on the road, that one faulty wheel threatening to swerve the cart into our lane. It was crazy. We decided to move to Peoria regardless of the shopping cart epidemic, which was tough at first, especially after that time this one shopping cart kept ringing our doorbell and rolling away, forcing me to shake my fist in anger. But it now appears as though our fortitude has been rewarded.
For the city of Peoria has finally recognized the plague of shopping carts, and is doing something about it. In fact, as part of their ongoing plan to rid Peoria of stray shopping carts, the city has rounded up over 1,500 of them since October. Yes, over 1,500 stray carts have been recovered. And you thought I was making light of this issue by exaggerating it. Shame on you.
But where do these stray carts go -- jail or rehab? Amazingly, neither. They are sent to the Municipal Operations Complex, and while that may sound like the most fun place in the world to go, they mean business over there. In fact, while walking out of Safeway with my groceries last week, two secret service agent-looking guys with MOC patches on their chests tried to grab my cart away from me. I was like, “Whoa, dude. This one’s with me.” Then I packed my car up and rolled the cart into the street.
So how does this work, you ask? Well, when stray carts are apprehended and arrive at the MOC, their parents -- or in this case, the “retailers” -- are called. The retailer then has three days to pick up their carts, at no cost. And they should. Because do you know what the cost of a brand new shopping cart is these days? I’ll give you a hint: It’s at least $200 more than whatever price you were thinking. Give up? It’s $250. I’m sorry, but that is insane.
Nevertheless, some retailers do not take advantage of this special offer. After that three-day window, the retailer has 30 days to buy the cart back for $30. Even still, some places to refuse to pick up their prodigal carts. After those 30 days, the carts officially become property of the city of Peoria, where they are a) recycled, b) sold to different retailers, or c) taken to another town at night and rolled down a giant hill.
The shopping cart-bike hybrid is part of the recycling program...and it's environmentally friendly! And ridiculous!
This program is already reaping benefits. Not only have the streets of Peoria been cleansed by the removal of stray shopping carts, but the city itself has also made almost $5,000 through the resale of said carts, money that will go towards the 2009 budget for removing stray tumbleweeds from the desert.
It remains unclear what the city plans to do with the carts that have actually escaped from the Municipal Operations Complex, but something needs to be done. Because if we’ve learned nothing about shopping carts through this entire ordeal, we’ve learned this: those suckers have a knack for getting loose.