Some Colorado Grocery Stores Ditch Handbaskets Due to Theft Issues | Westword

Basket Case: Some Colorado Grocery Stores Ditch Handbaskets Over Theft

"People take off with them. I don't know if they don't know that they aren't free sometimes."
Grocery store employees say stolen baskets have been an issue for a long time, and some major stores have stopped carrying them.
Grocery store employees say stolen baskets have been an issue for a long time, and some major stores have stopped carrying them. Michael Burrows/Pexels
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Does your local grocery store always seem to be out of handbaskets when you need them? It might not just be bad timing.

Some Colorado grocery stores have stopped providing shoppers with handheld baskets after losing too many to theft. While corporate denies the practice, employees from three metro Denver grocery stores told Westword their stores have given up on keeping the baskets in stock.

Reports from shoppers spread even further. On social media, customers have claimed dozens of Colorado grocery stores no longer offer handbaskets because they were all stolen. The online allegations include several grocery store chains across the state, from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs to Buena Vista. Westword investigated a handful of popular stores in the Denver area to see if the rumors are true.

At the downtown King Soopers, at 20th Street and Chestnut Place, there were no handbaskets in the store. An employee said they no longer carry them.

"Everybody kept walking off with them. Every time we'd get a new bunch, they'd be stacked this high," an employee said, raising their hand above their head. "Then by the end of the day, they'd be stacked this high," they continued, lowering their hand to ankle height. "It was that dramatic."

A manager of the King Soopers at South Buckley Road and East Quincy Avenue in Aurora confirmed that the store no longer provides handbaskets because of issues with theft. They declined to discuss the matter further.

Most of the grocery stores that shoppers claim got rid of handheld baskets referred inquiries to their corporate spokespeople, who denied that any stores don't carry the baskets.

"We continue to offer handbaskets as an option for customers shopping in all of our stores," says Jessica Trowbridge, spokesperson for King Soopers, adding that individual locations are not allowed to stop providing the baskets. "All stores should have them available."

When asked about shoppers reporting no handbaskets at Walmart locations in Denver, Aurora and Loveland, spokesperson Kelsey Bohl says, "Based on input from operations, stores in these cities have handbaskets."

When Westword visited an Aurora Walmart at Tower Road and Salida Street, however, there were no handbaskets. An employee said the store can't maintain a supply of baskets on the floor.

"It's hard to keep them," the employee said. "Some people take them, some use them for a house."

Some shoppers theorized that recent handbasket thefts are a result of Colorado banning single-use plastic bags, saying that shoppers take the handbaskets when they forget to bring reusable bags. Under the ban, grocery stores had until June 1 to use up their inventory of plastic bags. Grocery chains including King Soopers, Target and Safeway swapped the plastic bags for paper alternatives, charging customers ten cents a pop. Walmart doesn't offer any single-use bags.

However, other employees say stealing baskets has been a long-term issue.

A manager of the Arvada King Soopers at West 80th Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard says the store was briefly forced to "put away" their handheld baskets at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic because of theft. But the baskets have been returned and available to customers for the past few years.

"It's always kind of been [an issue]," says a manager at the Denver King Soopers off of West Florida Avenue and South Sheridan Boulevard. "People take off with them. I don't know if they don't know that they aren't free sometimes."

That Denver store still carries handbaskets "as much as we possibly can," the manager says, noting that they're unsure if thefts have increased since the single-use plastic bag ban. "People have adapted pretty well to having to bring your own bags."

But that doesn't stop people from speculating...or justifying the thievery.

"Why pay ten cents for a paper bag that will just rip halfway home when you can take a basket for free?" one Reddit user asks.
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