Shopping carts are made of metal or a metal and plastic combination. Pure plastic carts (think Target’s red carts), have holes to make for easier cleaning. Mesh and grid designs (more typical of a grocery store) are also easier to clean, but they are lighter to push around when loaded up with heavy groceries. They may also be cheaper to make since they use less material.
Many people wonder why there are loops on a shopping cart. The simple answer is they exist to hold your bags, though most people don’t use them.
Many carts also have locking mechanisms on the wheels to reduce theft. Once they reach a certain distance from the store the wheels will lock. This is done with a wheel clamp equipped with a transmitter that will receive a signal once the cart reaches the designated point and lock the wheels; preventing it from being taken away from the store.
Other ways stores deter theft of shopping carts is the token or coin system, where the carts are locked together with chains and can only be released once a coin or token is inserted. The coin or token pops back out of the cart once the customer has returned it and locked it up to the one in front of it.
Another form is the use of vertical poles outside the shopping area that are more narrow than the cart, preventing you from taking the cart through them and thus, off the premises.
Even with these types of anti-theft tools in place, it is not uncommon to see shopping carts on the side of the road, or in other unexpected areas. Shopping carts cost stores a lot of money so they try to keep as many carts free of theft as possible. It is also considered good etiquette to return your cart to its designated spot when you are finished with it.