Whereupon I Went For a Stroll and Discovered Why Groceries Cost So Very Much


A common ground meeting place for essentially all American expats in Australia is the sense of being punched in the stomach we felt when first seeing the prices at an Aussie grocery store. Personally, I’m not too proud to tell you that I had something of a hissy fit in the grocery once because – oh, for the sake of all things holy, all I need is a loaf of bread and they all cost at least $5. I marched out nearly in tears, and of course, had to turn around and go back because, you know, I still needed bread.

The shipping costs to such a remote country, high employee wages, and the lack of competition in the market  are all primary factors in the cost of things here, but today on my walk with the kiddo, it occurred to me that maybe there’s another factor helping to push grocery store prices so high. I think they’re going broke on grocery carts (trolleys).

I can’t explain it, but people in my neighborhood in Sydney seem to think nothing of walking out of the grocery store with their cart, taking it all the way home with them, and then dumping it on their lawn or sidewalk. We don’t live in a dodgy “broken window” neighborhood, in fact our part of town is often disparaged as sort of hoity-toity. Yet, we’re dotted with trolleys.

One of the funniest sights I’ve witnessed in Sydney was walking behind this absolute Nordic model looking woman – 6 feet tall, early 20s, blonde hair, decked out in black leggings and this super posh black leather jacket. She was one of those head-turning women, and there she was striding up busy Military Road pushing a full Coles shopping cart. I must have given her a look because as we passed her, she sort of said with her face, “I know, but – hey – what are you gonna do?”

Here is the cart detritus that I passed just today in our walk to the post office, less than a mile from our apartment.

Hard to see, but there’s a trolley hidden in the garage.

 I know that it can be tough to lug groceries home when you’re on foot. I don’t drive, so I do lots of grocery lugging. Believe me, I know about sore arms and nearly numb hands full of bags, but it has never once in my life crossed my mind to just rock out with the cart. And, I used to live in Brooklyn, a place where people got around in cars far less then here, and I never saw this phenomenon. 

I have to think that if Coles and Woolies could spend less on replacing an army of wayward carts, maybe they could lower the price of a loaf of bread. 

8 thoughts on “Whereupon I Went For a Stroll and Discovered Why Groceries Cost So Very Much

  1. Anphy

    In our suburb , all the stores have introduced a lock on the carts – that would automatically lock the wheels outside of a certain radii 🙂

  2. PixelSicle

    Hello, fellow ex-pat here, we live in your vicinity as well, just off OSH RD. After a couple of months of lugging sacks home I found Cole’s delivers, for around $8. I haven’t looked back since then. 🙂

    1. C. In Oz

      Hello! Yes, I think Woolies delivers for about the same price, as well. We actually stock up on our groceries on bi-weekly Costco runs and mostly just get the extras from Coles and Woolies, but I wish more people in our neighborhood would get wise to the delivery, it’s such a good deal – no need to litter the city with carts.

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