New Jersey grocery stores are going to hell in a handbasket.
Garden State shoppers who are ticked off over the state’s plastic bag ban are fighting back – by stealing hand-held shopping baskets instead of forking over a few cents for a reusable bag.
“They get nasty when they’re told that they can’t take the basket out of the store and some walk out anyway,” Kathy, who works at a New Jersey ShopRite, told The Post Tuesday.
“It is a problem at our store. People seem to think that it’s the store that came up with the bag ban and not the governor. People are stealing them because they’re forgetting their bags and don’t want to pay 34 cents for a reusable bag.”
Workers toiling at food stores up and down the Turnpike said plastic shopping baskets have virtually disappeared from their shops since the plastic bag ban took effect in May following a 2020 state law that banned the use of single-use plastic bags.
An employee at an ACME in Fort Lee said once upon a time, hand baskets were always available but these days, “not anymore.”
“They got stolen,” he said.
“It kinda motivates them,” the worker said of the plastic bag ban.
“It just seems like carrying the items is harder to do physically for some of them…They just take it and go.”
Another worker said the basket theft is “happening all over.”
“I just came in one day and they were gone,” he laughed.
At a ShopRite in Palisades Park, one worker said the store got rid of the baskets altogether after customers started looting them.
“Customers were taking them to the car and then going home with it, so we got rid of them,” the worker explained.
“I’m thinking it’s easier for them to bring it to the car and just leave it in the car. You would think they next day they’d bring it back, but I guess not.”
The worker called the basket burglaries “pretty stupid” and said they can’t understand why customers won’t just buy a reusable bag.
“I guess I can see the convenience of them bringing it to their car but I would find it very annoying to carry. I’d rather buy a bag for 99 cents than carry that thing, but I guess it’s easier for them,” said the worker.
“How is that comfortable for you to carry it out of the store?”
At Cafasso’s Fairway Market, workers have devised a strategy to outwit their would be thieving customers – cardboard boxes.
“A lot of the people don’t want to pay for the bags. They try to take the basket but we don’t let them so we tell them to take the boxes instead of the basket,” supervisor Pedro Ramirez explained.
A spokesperson for Stop & Shop called the rampant basket theft an “unintended consequence” of the plastic bag ban.
“Our customers are now more accustomed to the regulation, and we continue to remind them to bring their own bags, as well as offer our own durable and affordable 2 for $1 reusable bags in store,” the spokesperson said.
Karen O’Shea, a spokerson for ShopRite, said the store has been forced to put up signs reminding their customers to leave the basket at the counter.
“We understand this is still a new law and we continue to help customers adjust by reminding them to bring their reusable bags to shop,” O’Shea said.
“We hope people who use our baskets will remember to leave them in store when they are done shopping so the baskets remain a resource for all our customers.”
Some state leaders are calling for the ban to be reworked. State Sen. Michael Testa, a Cumberland County Republican, said this week that he wants the bag restrictions to have a “complete overhaul.”
“One of the unintended consequences of the new law has been on grocery stores, where the handy “quick stop” baskets people use to grab bread and milk are disappearing,” he said Monday in a press release. “So many have been taken home by shoppers that many grocers are no longer offering the convenience.”
Across the river in Manhattan, where a similar ban took effect in 2020, grocery store workers were shocked to hear their Garden State neighbors had resorted to thievery.
“Baskets? No one steals baskets here. That’s definitely odd. It didn’t happen when the bag ban happened,” said David Kang, the manager of an Upper West Side Key Food.
“We keep a close eye on things here.”