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Asda shop bans ‘granny trolleys’ in crackdown on theft

Wendy Ponting, who has arthritis in both her knees and her hands, struggles to lift heavy baskets
Wendy Ponting, who has arthritis in both her knees and her hands, struggles to lift heavy baskets - JULIAN SIMMONDS

A supermarket has banned “granny trolleys” in a crackdown on shoplifting.

At an Asda in Leyton, East London, the wheeled bags, typically used by older shoppers, must be left at the door following a spate of thefts using the nifty trolleys.

The bags can be seen lined up by the security desk on the way in with numbered labels on top, with customers only allowed to pick them up on their way out.

The Telegraph understands that the store in question has seen shoplifters using the trolleys to disguise what they are buying, before using the self-checkout machines to scan some but not all of their purchases.

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One supervisor said that the rule was introduced a month ago after the staff realised that the trolleys were being used to hide stolen goods.

The Asda employee said: “We have seen such cases at least two or four times every week.

“We have caught people doing that and have taken them to the police.

“We have even banned some people from the store.

“Because of this rule now, we don’t have any more issues.”

Individual Asda supermarkets are allowed to set their own security protocols, and a spokesman for Asda confirmed that this was not a policy being rolled out across the rest of their shops.

When The Telegraph visited the Leyton Mills store, there were up to 10 trolleys lined up under the watchful eye of a security guard at any one time.

Some customers preferred to wait outside while their partners did the shopping, rather than leave their trolleys unattended at the door.

Customers are being asked to leave their trolleys by the security desk upon entry.

Shoppers are then handed a lottery ticket with a number on it so that they can collect the correct trolley once they have finished their shop.

One shopper, Wendy Ponting who was buying cat food for her four cats, said that she had arthritis in both her knees and her hands and that she struggled to lift heavy baskets.

She said: “I come here at the weekend sometimes, put a basket on top and push it along.

“If they say anything to me, I’ll say: ‘I’m sorry, I can’t carry a basket.’”

Kiri Theo, another shopper at the Asda supermarket, said: “I’ve never had these rules before. If it’s an elderly person who needs their trolley to sit on, for example, then that’s not fair.”

Sumesh Chellam, a customer, said: “I don’t think it makes much sense because there are a lot of items that people can take without scanning, especially fruits like bananas.”

Another shopper, Eddie, said that he had refused to leave his shopping trolley at the door because he had other belongings in it.

He had been allowed to enter the shop anyway.

It comes as shoplifting offences reach record levels in England and Wales, costing retailers approximately £1bn a year.

More than 430,000 offences were recorded last year – or 1,178 a day – the highest number since records began in 2003.

In London, shoplifting numbers jumped by almost 50pc in the 12 months to May.

In September last year Lord Stuart Rose, the Asda chairman, said on LBC Radio that shoplifting had become “decriminalised” on LBC Radio.

He said: “It has become minimised. It’s actually just not seen as a crime anymore, we’ve become risk averse.”

Lord Stuart Rose, Asda chairman, says that shoplifting had become 'decriminalised'
Lord Stuart Rose, Asda chairman, says that shoplifting had become 'decriminalised' - Paul Grover

The industry veteran, who previously headed up Marks & Spencer, said that petty theft had become a “big issue” for shops, adding: “I’d like to see something done.

“Exactly what and how, that’s always the problem.”

Graham Wynn, of the British Retail Council, said: “Retailers are forced to spend a further £1.2bn a year on anti-crime measures such as CCTV, security personnel, and security tagging, in a bid to prevent such crimes.”

An Asda spokesman said: “Our top priority is to keep our customers and colleagues safe which is why our stores will implement policies that seek to deter shoplifting including the use of external trolleys.

“We regret that this customer had a negative experience on this occasion, but we hope that our customers understand the need to keep our stores safe for everyone.”