While it may seem that cart associates are at the bottom of the retailer totem pole, cart associates play an important role for the retailers and their customers. Cart associates are the "outside" ambassadors for the retailers.
Like mailmen they retrieve carts for customers’ convenience through all kind of weather: sweltering heat; pouring rain; blizzards; and frigid temperatures. True, this is part of their jobs so customers can spend more money in the store. Higher sales mean greater profits whether you are the world's Big Box store or the neighborhood grocer.
But cart associates also have other responsibilities: they police the parking lots to keep them clean; they assist customers who need assistance loading merchandise into vehicles; and they help unload supply trucks. So, cart associates play important roles for retailers.
All retailers have safety procedures that have to be followed by cart associates. When management fails to enforce these safety rules and properly supervise the cart associates, customers can get hurt, seriously hurt.
Recently, two women, one 89 and the other 83 years old, settled their lawsuits against the Big Box company, Sam's Club, and Ultra Foods, for their injuries suffered when cart associates failed to follow store safety rules.
In the Sam's Club case, the cart associate was working alone while his fellow cart associate was on lunch break. Cart supply was out, and customers were waiting to spend money. He was rushing to gather carts from the parking lot corrals and hustle them into the store's vestibule area. Using a remote controlled cart pusher, he was bringing the carts into the store. Although Sam's Club requires that cart associates always give the right of way to the customer, he brought the carts into the store without watching out for customers. When he finally looked where he was going, it was too late to prevent running into a woman with his body. He tried to grab her to keep from knocking her down but was unsuccessful. He knocked her to the ground with such force she broke her hip and shoulder. He was an experienced cart associate but got sloppy in the haste to bring in carts. Instead of shopping, the customer went to the hospital, had surgery on her hip that same day and had her life terribly changed.
In the Ultra Foods case, a woman shopper got her cart from a row of carts in the vestibule area. As she got behind the cart to go into the store, a cart associate at the far end of the vestibule rammed more carts into the row. This caused the row of carts to move forward knocking her to the ground. She also broke her hip and needed surgery.
Neither of these women would have been hurt if the cart associates were following their own company safety rules and if management had properly trained and supervised their activities. Not only did the stores pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages in each case, the stores lost customers (and their family members!) for life. But more importantly, two women, who should have been enjoying their golden years, still face daily disabilities and pain as a result.
Stores that have safety rules but fail to enforce them are no better than stores that have no safety rules. In fact, they are worse. The stores recognize the need for safety and the dangers that can happen if the rules are not followed, but do not care to enforce them. That is down right callous and negligent.
Retailers are in the business of making money, but safety of customers should never be compromised for profits. Safety is everybody's job, whether it is the store manager or simply the outside cart associate.