Video-Equipped Shopping Carts: The New Way to Keep Kids Quiet While Grocery Shopping

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Food shopping with kids is a challenge: Not only are they prone to complain of boredom and sometimes walk away when you’re not looking, little ones are also apt to beg for sugary expensive treats strategically placed on shelves right at their eye level. The standard advice for parents hoping to supermarket shop in peace—and with the time to evaluate deals and prices—has been to simply leave the kids at home, if possible. But what if there was a way to keep children happily occupied and draw their attention away from snacks featuring cartoon characters at the same time?

The King Soopers grocery store chain will soon be doing just that, and interestingly enough, the solution involves cartoon characters.

The Denver Post reports that 29 metro-area King Soopers locations will offer at least three video-equipped shopping carts by the end of the month. Many supermarkets have shopping carts with plastic little cars kids can sit in, but these carts will be different: Inside each is a video player, not unlike the DVD players families have become accustomed to in SUVs.

There’s a screen inside each of the kid’s “cars,” and another with controls on it in front of the parent. Thirty-second commercial messages about store products play on the parent’s screen, while the kid’s player shows a rotating selection of videos—”Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” “Handy Manny,” and the like.

Are these carts a good idea? Whether or not this represents good parenting is one discussion. But what’s particularly interesting from the consumer angle is that these new carts could actually help parents keep their sanity and save money in the same swoop. The Denver Post explains:

An ironic result could be that the merchandising practice of placing kid-oriented products on lower shelves where they’re most visible to young eyes will be diminished by the distracting videos, said marketing professor Darrin Duber-Smith of Metropolitan State College of Denver.

“The kids will be distracted from the nagging effect produced by sugary products placed at kids’ level,” he said.

A decrease in the “nagging effect” (love that phrase!) is certainly good for families—good for the budget, good for kids nutrition, and good just because less whining is always welcomed. If the tradeoff is a little more TV, perhaps that’s not so bad.

One question, though: Are the kids’ programs interrupted with commercials for toys, snacks, and other products you’d rather not buy? If so, that could negate any bonus brought about by the carts: The decrease in nagging for junk food appearing on supermarket shelves might be matched by an increase in nagging for goodies appearing on video screens.

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