An expanded pilot program that brought kids' shopping carts to dozens of Target stores didn't last very long.
The Minneapolis-based retailer pulled the plug on the test earlier this week, just a few weeks into it, after receiving an earful of complaints as customers vented on social media about bruised ankles and shins and the difficulty of managing their children who often got carried away with the carts. They described shopping cart collisions and meltdowns that resulted from parents not wanting to buy all of the items they put in the carts. Those without children also expressed displeasure at the traffic jams in the aisles.
"At Target, our guests are at the center of everything we do, and we value their feedback," said Kristy Welker, a Target spokeswoman. "We briefly tested kiddie carts at 72 Target stores, and after reviewing guest and stores feedback, we have made the decision to stop the test."
She noted that some customers liked the carts. But the company heard more negative than positive comments. She added that employees weren't thrilled by them either, complaining the carts took up a lot of space and cluttered the front of the store.
This is not the first time that Target has changed course after hearing negative feedback through social media and other channels.
Last year, it took down the gender-based signs in its toy aisles after a cacophony of anger sparked by one mother's tweet showing a sign in a Target store that delineated between girls' and boys' building blocks.
Target had been testing the little shopping carts in 10 stores for more than a year. In late August, the company expanded the pilot to 72 stores — 50 in Minnesota and 22 in New York.
Similar carts can be found in some grocery stores like Trader Joe's. They seemed like a strategic fit with Target's core customers — parents with young children.
But Target is also a very large store with lots of temptations such as toys and has more runway for kids to explore — and to pick up a lot of velocity.
The controversy over the carts received more attention after a Minneapolis mommy blogger wrote a humorous post about them last week at her blog Laughing Without Limits. Laura Rinas wrote that she was going to start a tongue-in-cheek movement called "Moms Against Stupid Tiny Carts," or MASTC.
She recounted a recent shopping trip in which the small carts — or "vehicles of mass destruction" as she described them — transformed what was usually a "magical" shopping experience for her at Target into a bit of a nightmare.
She said she normally puts her son in the adult-sized cart and gives him a drink and an iPad to keep him busy while she leisurely walks the aisles. But on a recent visit, she let him try out one of those little carts.
"There was 10 whole seconds where I thought that that MIGHT have been the cutest thing I have ever seen," she wrote.
Then her son started putting everything from the dollar section into his cart. And then he started amusing himself by pushing the cart and letting it fly, sometimes crashing it into other carts.
She saw another frenzied family yelling after and chasing a son, who was also pushing around one of the carts. He was "escaping down the candy aisle, his little flag the only thing you could see. The only thing I can compare it to is that scene in Jurassic Park (I have no idea which one) where the raptors are coming in through the long grass, and all you can see are their tails, but you know it means DOOM IS UPON THEM."
Rinas launched her blog in July and it had been read by only a few dozen family and friends up until that point. But within days the post about the carts went viral, racking up more than 230,000 views and inspiring a spirited debate on the topic.
When Target removed the carts from stores earlier this week, some were sad to see them go.
"My girls BEG me to take them shopping at @Target so they can 'shop' like mom with their own cart … and now the carts are gone. #targetfail," one mom tweeted, posting a picture of her young daughter hoisting a huge loaf of bread into a small shopping cart.
Some parents said they would bring their own small shopping carts to entertain their children if Target wouldn't provide them anymore.
Rinas, the mommy blogger, acknowledged that some people really loved the carts. But she thinks it was a smart business move for Target to remove them because they made parents feel more rushed to finish their shopping, meaning they wouldn't buy as many things.
"Would I have been OK had the tiny carts stayed there? Absolutely," she wrote in an e-mail. "But my throw pillow and coffee mug collections would have definitely stopped growing."
So what will become of those decommissioned tiny carts? They are now sitting idle the backrooms of stores while Target figures out what to do with them.
Here's a look at how the issue has played out in the Twittersphere. To be sure, there were some that liked the carts and have been sad to see them go:
But the anti crowd was much bigger. And louder:
This little video summed it up best:
Kavita Kumar • 612-673-4113