Fixing the dirty grocery cart problem

I recently met an inventor interested in our help in making his product the solution to an age old problem…the germy grocery shopping cart. I must admit that I’d never really thought of the problem and the second he brought up the issue, a little chill went down the old spine.

Just think about how many people have placed their germy hands on the same handle you’ll place your hands on the next trip you make to your grocery. All of the coughs and sneezes, spit up…you catch my drift. It is another risk you face when you go outside your own familiar germy home that is beginning to get some media coverage like this report from theĀ NBC Today Show.

The inventor offers a major step forward in de-germing grocery carts that is safe, effective and complete in about five seconds. That is compared to the current conventional disinfectant wipes offered by most grocery stores near their carts. Sounds equally quick and easy – except it does not work.

Take a look at the disclaimer on the dispensers of those wipes and it will tell you that for a bleach-based wipe to work, you must keep the surface wet for five minutes (10 minutes for alcohol-based wipes). Who is going to do that? Not me. By the way, it is estimated that landfills in the South take in the equivalent of 374 tractor trailer loads of used wipes each year.

The inventor tells me he got through to a senior executive of a major grocery chain and convinced the executive that wipes don’t work without an unreasonable amount of time spent “wetting” a cart. The reply from the executive was that even with that knowledge he wouldn’t change his disinfectant method because it was easy and as long as his customers thought the wipes were effective – his job was done. Really?

My approach is that grocers could use the new technology as a positive differentiator from their competitors. Can you imagine the number of moms who would flock to the grocer simply because they could know their kids were safer inside the cart. We will try that approach first. If it doesn’t work – maybe some negative reinforcement via the news media will work.