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“Shopping Carts!!! Why so many shopping carts???”

by Prince Of Petworth September 12, 2016 at 1:45 pm 35 Comments

shopping carts
Photo by PoPville flickr user Kevin Wolf

“We recently purchased a house in the neighborhood that includes a driveway off of the back yard. The driveway has open access from the street behind our house.

Even before we closed, we noticed a shopping cart parked in our driveway. We naively assumed that once we started parking a car in the driveway, the person parking the cart would get the hint and move the cart. No luck.

DPW now has visited our house on multiple occasions to remove one to two carts, from a variety of establishments. We usually get a single day/night of reprieve, and then a new one reappears.

They are always empty. They only seem to be used at night because they sit there empty in our driveway during the day.

Has anyone else had this problem? We feel like we are being punked or that we should be more fearful for our safety.

Any suggestions? Thanks!!

[We are in northern Columbia heights, a block from the intersection of Georgia and NH ave.

Another one appeared this morning.]”

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  • transplanted

    “Has anyone else had this problem? We feel like we are being punked or that we should be more fearful for our safety.”
    Fearful for your safety? That’s a bit much. People are inconsiderate, and people are creatures of habit. Whoever abandons their nighttime shopping cart every day in your driveway probably started doing it when it was an unoccupied house that always had an empty driveway, and now it’s their habit. It’s a PITA, like many things that happen in life, but I feel like you are just afraid of your new neighborhood if you’re trying to read it as a threat.

    • textdoc

      It’s not _necessarily_ a threat… but it could be a threat. For example, someone could be leaving a shopping cart in the driveway to determine whether there’s anyone home (someone who’s home will move the cart; someone who’s out of town won’t).
      It’s certainly weird.
      OP, are the shopping carts always from the same establishment? Or from different ones?

      • FridayGirl

        +1 to “It’s certainly weird.” If it were for groceries as T suggests below I doubt it would be empty during the day and gone at night. But alternatively, I suppose if a homeless person were using it that I’d expect it to be used during the day, as well.
        OP, any chance of having a camera pointing to your driveway to see how the carts get there? It might give you some piece of mind.

        • Yeah I would get a camera up ASAP.

      • James W.

        The easiest way to see if someone is home or not – considering OP leaves their car in the driveway – is to simply look for the presence/absence of the car. What would be the point of dragging a cart however many blocks? Agree that there’s a likely benign reason and a camera would easily show how the cart ends up there. How this would cause anyone to fear for their safety is a bit of a head-scratcher to me.

        • textdoc

          “The easiest way to see if someone is home or not – considering OP leaves their car in the driveway – is to simply look for the presence/absence of the car.” Not necessarily — if the OP goes to work by (say) Metro, the car could stay in the driveway except when the OP is using it to run errands, etc.
          It might not be applicable in this particular situation, but I’m thinking of similar means someone could use to figure out whether someone was home — e.g., leaving a flyer in the doorknob and waiting to see when it gets retrieved, etc.
          The cart situation is just plain odd. A camera could show the OP who is leaving carts there and whether he/she seems to be using the carts for transporting stuff… but it wouldn’t necessarily do anything to stop carts from appearing in the driveway.

      • JoDa

        I would buy this as “absolutely plausible” if it started only after OP moved in. Because it seemed to be an “existing situation” when they bought the place and whoever leaves the cart was doing it when they *knew* the house was vacant, it’s probably just laziness/habit, nothing to be scared about.
        I agree with others that if you have the $$, installing a roll-down will solve this problem, improve your security, and increase the value of your home. I mean, you may find that the cart ends up behind your door, so you still have to move it to pull in/out, but it won’t end up on your property with the attendant people walking in to leave/retrieve it.
        Otherwise, maybe put in a cheap camera to see what’s going on so you can figure out how to address it. A motion sensor light also might scare the leaver off. If neither of those appeal to you, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. Just push it out of your way (but out of the way of others, too!), continue to have DPW haul them off, and chances are, eventually, whoever leaves it there will find it an inconvenience to have to go get *another* one when theirs disappears on the regular.

  • ET

    I don’t think this is directed at you personally. I do think it is likely a close neighbor given the frequency and they may be “odd.”

  • T.

    People remove shopping carts from stores as a means to carry their goods home from the store. (Interestingly, I think this phenomenon has gotten worse, in part, as a result of the plastic bag tax — rather than using bags, people just take shopping baskets or carts with them.) Anyway, then they leave the carts somewhere convenient and out of the way– in your case, a driveway that’s off an alley. This is part of city living. (Heck, it’s part of suburban living, too, when you live near a grocery store or a Target).

    If you don’t use/move your car often, perhaps you could border your driveway with some large moveable planters or similar, to occupy the space? Or decorate the abandoned cart to create some street art?

    • textdoc

      I was going to suggest adding a fence… but that’s a fair amount of expense/hassle unless you’re fairly sure you want/need it.

    • anon

      I didn’t know people did this, but this was my guess upon reading the post.

  • Anonymous

    Enclose your driveway with a Pooner gate. It will make your home safer. and it will increase your property value (a Pooner will pay for itself). Problem solved.
    If you want to have nice things near Georgia Ave, you need to keep it on lockdown.

    • stacksp


      I would definitely look into enclosing your driveway.

    • I Dont Get It

      Or a moat. Those suckers sink in less than two minutes flat.

  • navyard

    I would just put an orange traffic cone with a stick and a poster on it that says something like : “Please do not leave shopping carts here”.

    I’d put that there for a few days and see if that helps the situation. Plus, I’d borrow someone’s nest cam for a few days and figure out who is doing that. I agree with others. It sounds like it is just someone’s weird habit.

    • ParkViewneighbor

      that’s probably the best way to have even more shopping carts

    • textdoc

      Maybe I’m a pessimist in this respect, but I’d be worried the traffic cone would get stolen.

      • stacksp

        Traffic cone wouldn’t last a few hours lol

        • FridayGirl


    • anon

      I’d wonder if the person leaving the carts was literate.

  • I Dont Get It

    I think I read once that the Bloods (or is it the Crips?) leaves a shopping cart in your driveway to mark their territory in NW.

    • Colhi

      +1 but I heard it was the Dangerway Gang.

    • zipdc

      Well done.

    • transplanted


  • Shopping carts are like gray hairs..remove one and eight more come to its funeral. Solution? Learn to live with them, and consider making an “outsider art” installation.

  • wdc

    I thought all shopping carts had those wheel lock things now. Are they easy to disable?
    Also, get a camera.

    • textdoc

      I was wondering the same thing (re. wheel locks).

    • JoDa

      The Home Depot at RIA told us they don’t install wheel locks on their carts because they’re expensive, easy to defeat, and annoying to deal with when someone parks outside the “boundaries” in the parking lot or they malfunction (apparently unlocking them is more of a hassle for the store than those who can “easily defeat” them to roll the carts home..:shrug:). From what I can tell from the stores around here, the only way to stop people from taking the carts are physical barriers, like the tall poles attached to the carts that prevent them from going through the door (TJ Maxx, Forman Mills) or those blockades around the sidewalk that won’t let a car through (Save A Lot). We get plenty of carts from the other places, including Giant carts with wheel locks.
      Most of the time it’s like T. said, people are getting their stuff home. I, too, wish they’d get a hand cart of their own (I know money can be an issue, but they’re not super-expensive as a one-off purchase and useful for many things), but it’s not something I consider particularly nefarious. However, considering I’ve noticed little difference since the bag tax went into place (plastic bags are uncomfortable to carry, and who wants to carry a week’s worth of groceries in hand, even in bags?), I wouldn’t be so quick to place the blame there. Most of the time, the person who “borrowed” the cart takes it back within a day or so, when they pass by again, and those that hang around for more than 2-3 days, we just call 311 and someone comes around and picks them up. A few extra-nice neighbors even gather up a few (not many…more than 3-4 become cumbersome) carts once in a while and push them “home.”

  • PettyShabazz

    Maybe also get motion sensor lights for the end of your driveway? That would likely startle whoeever is leaving them there and they may pick a new drop spot.

    • textdoc

      This could be tricky, depending on how long the driveway is — the motion-sensor lights probably need to be connected to the house’s electricity supply, the house itself is the easiest place to mount them, and in my experience, motion-sensor lights have a disappointingly short range as far as distance. (Cue all the times I’ve been approaching my back patio and waving my arms to get the light to turn on, because it doesn’t sense me until I’m a few feet away.)

      • timmyp2353

        Nope I’ve had one the runs on batteries for years. Pretty cheap, effective and you have to change the batteries like once a year maybe. Totally worth it.

      • Anonymous

        I’d say you’ve got bad lights or they’re poorly adjusted or mounted. Several houses near me (including mine and my next door neighbor) have house mounted lights that activate when people walk through the alley. Not sure of the exact distance but that’s across at *least* 30ft of backyard.

        • textdoc

          Hmm…. the one I have lights a covered patio, and is mounted in the light box thing next to the door, just below the ceiling/floor of the porch above. Maybe that’s affecting its range.

  • I feel like you might want to get in touch with Julian Montague, author of “The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification”. He can probably help


  • Beau

    Your driveway is haunted by the ghosts of shoppers past. Move to the suburbs immediately.


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