Vernon shopping cart fine proposal dropped

Proposed fine to Vernon retailers who choose not to have theft protection on shopping carts vetoed

The man who proposed fining Vernon retailers for not having theft protection for shopping carts at their facilities was the man leading the charge to rescind the recommendation.

Vernon Coun. Brian Quiring motioned to vote in favour of a staff recommendation that, based on industry response that shopping carts located off the retailer property are normally removed by a third-party contractor, and are normally repaired and/or decommissioned at their expense, council direct staff to not proceed with a fine to retailers who choose not to use theft protection on commercial shopping carts.

The move was one of a handful of recommendations made on shopping carts by the city-mandated Activate Safety Task Force, on which Quiring and fellow Coun. Scott Anderson sat.

“It was actually my idea at the task force to bring forward this idea of a fine to, well, business owners for not having their shopping carts looked after,” said Quiring.

Part of the recommendations also called for a city-wide ban on shopping carts, though that recommendation was later defeated by council, and staff was directed to bring forward information obtained from a consultation process with social agencies and “the retailers whom utilize shopping carts…in regards to recovery, disposal, theft protection and potential fines for the regulation of shopping carts in the City of Vernon.”

RELATED: Vernon council votes down shopping cart ban

City staff and bylaw met 12 major retailers who use shopping carts: both Safeways, both Save On Foods, Buy Low Foods, Home Depot, London Drugs, Rona, Real Canadian Wholesale Club, Shoppers Drug Mart (downtown), Real Canadian Superstore and Walmart.

RELATED: B.C. Civil Liberties Association upset with Vernon shopping cart proposal

The downtown Safeway report that lost/stolen carts cost the sore $350 to replace, and lose “10-to-13 carts per week.” The carts currently have no locking mechanisms but are chained together at night and padlocked.

Vernon Square Safeway reports it loses two-to-three carts per week.

Safeway stores utilize the services of Western Cart to return their shopping carts from streets, lanes and lots as well as from the City of Vernon operations yard.

“The Safeway managers wondered why police were doing nothing to retrieve the stolen carts,” said Geoffrey Gaucher, the city’s manager of protective services. “They are further upset by the notion that the victims (retailers) are likely to be punished by a city bylaw but not the thieves.”

Managers “vigorously” denied leaving shopping carts to be taken as opposed to being recycled, as did both managers at the two Save On Foods in the Village Green Centre and The Shops at Polson Park.

Save On Foods said all carts are locked up overnight with chains and padlocks and they have not reported any bulk thefts similar to those reported by Safeway. They do report the loss/theft of approximately 100 carts in 2018 which cost more than $25,000 to replace ($250 per cart).

It was a Save On Foods manager, who said in the report on the potential of being fined: “Now the city wants to fines businesses when there are abandoned shopping carts around town? I am a tax-paying business that is being stolen from and you want to fine the victim instead of the people who committed the crime?”

That got to Quiring.

“That spoke to me when he said we were punishing businesses,” said Quiring. “Clearly it (fine) was the wrong idea on my part. I’m good with it.”

Coun. Kari Gares pointed out from the report that there were 520 carts stolen in 2018 and of those, 182 were returned, meaning a net loss to those businesses of $101,000.

“Charging them for the shopping carts when they’re already going for a loss is absolutely crazy,” said Gares.

Council unanimously voted to support Quiring’s motions, meaning retailers will not be fined.

Coun. Scott Anderson was absent from the meeting.

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