Cara Hopkins' Blog

Will shoppers leave their cars at home?

I gave up my car about a year ago and, for the most part, I don’t miss it. I save a ton of money and I never have to remember where I parked. But come grocery-shopping-day, my resolve to remain car-less is seriously tested.

I always over-buy. No matter how hard I try to keep my bags light, I inevitably end up lugging what feels like three or four tons of jars and cans, tetra-paks and frozen vegetables. My fingers turn red as I strain under the pressure. My shoulders ache and cry out: Why did you have to buy that huge bottle of juice? Did you have to get two cans of stewed tomatoes? Luckily I live fairly close to the market. And by the time I get home, I feel … accomplished.

Many retailers offer discounts and incentives for customers and employees who choose to walk, bike or take public transportation, but convincing die-hard drivers to leave their cars at home isn’t easy. One interesting initiative is taking place this week in Manhattan, where area Whole Foods Markets are giving shoppers free rides home via pedi-cab. The pedi-cabs are stationed from 11am-3pm and 4-7pm at a different Whole Foods location each day—Today is Columbus Circle; Thursday is Union Square and Friday is Bowery.

While most New Yorkers don’t drive much anyway, it gets you thinking about creative ways to encourage customers to try a new way of getting to and from the store.

Circumstances make driving to the grocery store a necessity for some people, but I bet most of your customers could make the trip without a car, at least once in a while. When they do, I suspect they’ll have an experience similar to mine: Once the backache fades and I catch my breath, I take pride in the fact that my mode of transport is in line with the values guiding every other part of my shopping experience—to support the things I believe in and to limit my negative impact as much as possible.

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