On the trolley trail: Crowdsourcing app helps supermarkets track down trolleys
SINGAPORE: At Jurong West Street 65, abandoned supermarket trolleys are a common sight. Many are often found near lift landings, walkways, garbage disposal areas and even in drains. The area has been identified by supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice as "an area of particular concern".
The situation can be so bad that staff have to go out on patrol to bring the abandoned trolleys back to the store. Until recently, the trolley wranglers would have to rely on their knowledge of the popular dumping spots, helped by occasional residents' feedback submitted via its hotline or website.
Since April, however, the process has become more sophisticated and targeted with the addition of a crowdsourcing function to the Municipal Services Office's OneService app. Users are able to use the app to submit the location and photograph of an abandoned trolley.
FairPrice has since received 84 notifications about abandoned trolleys in the vicinity of Jurong Point through the app, helping staff to track down more effectively the 80 to 120 trolleys which are retrieved every day from the area, the supermarket chain told Channel NewsAsia.
Upon receiving information about an abandoned trolley, the staff at the Jurong Point outlet will leap into action and wheel it back to the store. This has helped the supermarket chain, which lost about 1,000 trolleys annually in the past two years, to utilise staff more effectively.
Across the whole network of FairPrice stores, a total of 337 lost trolleys have been reported so far through the OneService app. "That is a significant increase from an average of about 50 reports a month," said Mr Jonas Kor, director of Corporate Communications, NTUC FairPrice.
"Additionally, the in-built photo function of the app has helped us better identify the location and type of trolley, allowing us to deploy staff from stores where the trolleys originate," Mr Kor added.
FairPrice is one of five supermarket chains which MSO is working with. The other supermarkets are Sheng Siong, Cold Storage, Giant and Mustafa Centre.
Sheng Siong has also found the application useful in retrieving its trolleys. A spokesperson from Sheng Siong said most of its abandoned trolleys that have been reported were seen far away from the supermarket. The spokesperson added that this meant that the abandoned trolleys might not have been spotted by the staff easily. "The success rate of retrieval has been high."
In a statement to Channel NewsAsia, MSO said the new crowdsourcing feature has worked well. The OneService app has received about 600 notifications about abandoned trolleys in less than two months.
"We are glad that the public have participated proactively and alerted us to abandoned trolleys via the OneService App," said the spokesperson. "MSO will continue to work with stakeholders and the community to reduce municipal dis-amenities caused by the irresponsible abandonment of trolleys."
MSO also urged the public to use supermarket trolleys in a responsible manner and to always return them after use.
Speaking during the Ministry of National Development Committee of Supply debate in April this year, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who heads the MSO, said if the initiative works well, the crowdsourcing arrangements would be expanded to other municipal issues.