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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

Hidden Costs

Do you know why some grocery stores require you to leave a coin as a deposit before you can take a shopping cart from the parking lot?

It's not because the store is worried you'll steal the cart.

It's because if you leave a coin as a deposit, you're going to want that coin back. And the only way to get your coin back is to return the cart back to the stall where you found it...

... and if you return the cart to the stall yourself, then the grocery store doesn't have to pay an employee to do it for you.

Let's do some math: if we assume a typical grocery store with shopping carts freely available for consumers needs to pay someone minimum wage for two hours each day to collect the carts scattered about the parking lot and bring them back into the store, then that's a cost of about $30 per day. That's $210 a week for a store open every day of the week, which works out to $10,950 for the entire year.

Even if the grocery business wasn't well-known to have low margins, it's easy to see why operators would rather have $10,950 in profit than $10,950 in costs. (And for a large grocery-store chain with hundreds of stores, that per-store amount can add up to a lot of money.)

But there's a hidden cost to that $10,950 in extra profit.

Every consumer who walks into a grocery store parking lot where a coin is required will need to have a coin available. And not just any coin; they'll need to have the right denomination depending on what that store's carts require.

"Big deal," you might think, "just keep a few coins in the car."

But for those who walk to the grocery store and for those shoppers who aren't that organized, requiring a coin for a cart means fumbling around in a purse or pocket for the right denomination, and perhaps having to ask a fellow shopper for change if the right coin is nowhere to be found. This isn't a major obstacle, it's a minor irritant.

More specifically, it's a minor irritant that'll happen every single time a customer visits that store. And it won't take long before a customer's irritation with the shopping cart becomes a customer's irritation with the store.

So what's the cost of irritating your customers right before they step into your store to spend their hard-earned dollars?

I'd think it's more than $10,950 per year, wouldn't you?

Hidden costs are everywhere.

If you want to provide the very best experience for your customers, it's your job to find them.


P.S. I know it's a meme, but I've found it to be absolutely true: I've never met a successful person who doesn't return their shopping cart to the corral. Take from that what you will.


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