Arizona Business Gazette:

Despite alert store personnel, sophisticated anti-theft systems and other precautions, shopping carts seem to have lives of their own, disappearing like magic from Valley retailers.

Enter Tom Martinet, whose company, Arizona Cart Retrieval, operates every day of the year except Christmas to locate and return the carts to area businesses.

“I knew there was a cart problem,” Martinet said, “but I didn’t realize the extent of it until we started this service.”

In an average week, one of Martinet’s contractors will have dispatched crews to round up and return close to 15,000 carts to Arizona retailers.

The retrieval service employs 18 flatbed trucks that serve more than 30 retailers and about 460 stores in the state. Clients include Fry’s, Safeway, Albertsons, Wal-Mart, Family Dollar and Lowe’s Home Improvement.

Once captured, the carts are steam-cleaned or refurbished on-site using equipment loaded onto the flatbeds. Most of the repair work is limited to replacing handles and seat straps and welding wheels. Carts that can’t be fixed are parted out.

Business can only continue to increase for the cart service, especially as the Valley becomes more congested. “In areas that are built up with apartment complexes, office buildings and condos, you’re going to see this continue,” Oliver said.

The average steel shopping cart costs about $100. Custom styles, such as the plastic race car kiddie carts, cost $400 to replace. The firm works on a contract basis with retailers to retrieve carts.

Photo by maximumawesome.