Friday, August 31, 2007

No. 0031 - Grocery Cart Static Generator


Some of you that has been my friends for awhile, might know very well of my problem with static electricity shock. It doesn't kill me or anything but it hurts and it is very annoying. For some reason, I seem to get it worse than anyone I know. I can get shock at just about anywhere, anytime. For example, one time I got out of my car, walked inside a building, drank from the water fountain and I got shock at my tongue (clarification, I got shocked from the stream of water and not from the metal faucet. It is not like I licked water fountain. . .that's sick!). In another occasion, I was driving with my flip-flops and as I stepped out of my car, my pinky toe touched the asphalt and established an arc. I have attempted and tried many different ways to avoid being shocked. Some of you might remember that in my collection of keys, included this funny electrical looking key chain. Well, my friend, that key chain wasn't any ordinary key chain but a static discharger. Inside it consisted of a LED or a buzzer, used to dissipate the electrical charge. I was so charged up from time to time that I burnt out two of those things. I've tried discharging the static on metal doors with other parts of my body that is less sensitive such as my shoulders, legs, even my butt. (FYI, if you ever see my pant leg dirty, that's because I sometimes press my leg against the bottom part of my car door before I get out in order to establish electrical ground with the car, in avoiding the shock). As you can imagine how sometimes you might catch me brushing the metal door first with my shoulders. Now you know that I'm not so stupid that I'm trying to ram the door down but instead discharging the shock. My current method is to tap the metal door firmly holding my key. This way, I would still get a slight jolt, but at least the arc won't be on my skin.

Now not all of my methods mentioned above can entirely prevent me from getting shocked. On one particular instance, I was at Costco grocery shopping with a metal cart. I was holding the metal handle bar as I was maneuvering the cart around the store until I felt a slight but sharp poke at my palm. That occurred 2-3 more times afterwards so I thought I was grabbing a sharp corner of the metal weld. Then I started to push the cart with my hands gripping the side of the cart. Same thing! After feeling being pricked several times, I started to inspect the welds of the shopping cart and it looked smooth and fine. It was then I realized it was the cart that was shocking me repeatedly as the plastic wheel was generating the charge as it is rubbing with the floor. Out of this experience came an idea. What if each shopper that shops at a grocery store is asked to connect themselves to a store central battery of sort via a cable. As the shopper moves about the store with their cart, he or she will generate the charge and the cable will take that charge towards the storage (i.e. battery). Now I can assure you the charges and current from only one shopper might not be very significant, but imagine how many grocery stores are out there in this nation? Imagine how many people travel in and out of those stores everyday? With this type of masses, I would have to say that this stored up electricity might be able to add up to something. Now it would be pretty ridiculous to see millions of shopper all connected at the wrist to the building because eventually all will get tangled up pretty easily. But considering the energy crunch that we are all experiencing as a country today, should a few knots or trip and tumble really matter?

29 comments:

Mark said...

you aren't going to believe this, but the same thing happened to me at wal-mart this weekend...as I was rolling the buggy through the store..bang! Every five minutes or so bang again! I though I was going crazy! I had to keep my hands on the plastic to keep from getting shocked!

Anonymous said...

o.k this is so strange, but today i was at walmart also and i kept getting shocked on my hands. i also thought i was going crazy... i was so scared to go and get gas for my car. it hurt really bad. i also had to get plastic to stop the shock.

Anonymous said...

i am soooo relieved to see there are others out there. the walmart cart was driving me nuts. i thought maybe it was because i was on the cell phone so i hung up. the shocking stopped for a few minutes until i got to the frozen food aisle. when i reached out to open the door to the freezer, i actually created an arc. freaky stuff!!

Anonymous said...

This just happened to me for the second time at Costco. I was shocked through the plastic! And my baby was in the cart and every time she touched me she'd get shocked and cry. Of course I just gave up and came home. I found this blog looking for an explanation and a way to solve the problem but I'm not immediately finding anything. Is this really so unusual that there is no help available?

Patrick said...

Sorry that your baby got shocked.
Before I explain the potential solutions, let me tell you why the grocery cart is shocking in the first place so you would understand what I'm about to propose. I used to work in an environment where plastic wheeled/metal carts are used to move static sensitive equipments. To prevent static shock to the equipments, the carts there have drag chain touching the metal cart with the floor. What that is really doing is keeping the cart grounded from being charged. You are shocking your baby at Costco because the whole cart is begin charged from the friction of the plastic wheels as you are pushing it. Without the drag chain, the charged electrons have no where to go beside arcing through your finger tips because you are the only thing touching the ground beside the 4 plastic wheels. Charge electrons will always travel in the path of the least resistance to ground. So if it has to chose to go through the plastic wheels or you (which is mostly fluid and conductive), it will definitely chose you. However if there is a chain touching the ground, the electrons would chose metal instead because that would have even lesser resistance.

Okay solution. I'm not suggesting you to hook up a drag chain to your cart every time you go to Costco (that would be kinda awkward). However, as you are pushing the cart, don't grab the plastic handle bar but instead grip the metal mesh siding as I have suggested in the blog. What this is doing is that you now will become the same charge as the cart as you are pushing it around. The lesser charge difference between you and the cart, the lesser the chance you will shock your baby. Now this method is not perfect. You might get occasional mini shocks whenever you minimize your grip with the metal sides. ALSO (this is crucial now), instead of shocking your baby or the cart, you will now most likely get shocked as you touch any other metallic object that is grounded (i.e. refrigerator door handles, metal racks). Remember, you are charged closer to the cart now instead of the ground, and the charge will remain in your body for a while unless you discharge it. So before you open that fridge door for the milk, here is what you can do. Grab you keys, hang on to the one end with your fingers and tap the tip of your key to any metal part of the fridge. You should see or hear the arc. If so, then you have just been discharged (grounded). If not, then you were probably not charged in the first place (possible on rainy days or high humidity). By the time you get back to the cart with the milk, the charge in your cart would probably be gone by then. However, just to be safe, tap the key against the metal of the cart to discharge that as well. By now, everybody/thing would have be grounded. Now, even with the key, you'll probably feel a little jolt as you tap, but not a shock (the arc won't snap on your finger tips but on the key tip instead). There are also some static discharger that you can buy online or at auto places that you hook up to your key chain. Same theory. Tapping metal with that would also prevent the jolt as well. They are pretty cheap, but I've fried through 2 or 3 of those already (I'm pretty staticky).

Amanda said...

I am glad to see I am not going nuts! My husband has always thought I'm crazy when I've told him that the shopping cart is shocking me.

I get strange reactions to metal pretty frequently, including even just holding an umbrella (if I accidentally hold the metal part, my arm starts to get shocks, and I eventually get tingly, and then numb). It is really annoying.

Thank you for the helpful blog post!

Anonymous said...

I just got back from King Soopers. I was shocked repeatedly from my shopping cart--this has never happened to me before and at first I thought I pinched my hand somewhere on the handle. I had rubber bottom shoes on and it "appeared" that the wheels were rubber, but maybe not. It was a strange enough experience that wanted to see if anyone on the Internet had reported getting shocked from shopping carts. The thought did occur to me that if there was a child in the cart they could have been being shocked too.

dmitchell@stny.rr.com said...

I am a building inspector and was just shopping at wal-mart. I received a painful electric shock from my cart every twenty feet that I traveled through the store. In 30 years and thousands of building inspections I have never seen anything like this. I returned home and googled "shopping cart static charge" and found this place. Can some one send this link to Wal-Mart. Perhaps something needs to be done about the design of the cart.

Anonymous said...

This has been happenning to me lately every time I shop in Trader Joes!!! It really hurts. I have neveer experienced this at any other store, so I thought there was some sort of electrical current in the floor or something! I am glad it is not serious.

Amy said...

Me too!!! Except that the charge is as constant as if I were holding onto a low voltage electrical fence. The grocery cart has a plastic cuff that covers the handle 3/4 of the way, leaving my palms protected and my finger tips tingling. If I move my hands to the outer handle, sparks fly. I thought everyone was feeling this and the store was just being slow to correct it. My cart today was particularly bad, so I found a manager to have him test it. He didn't feel anything, but was professionally compassionate. That was my first clue that I was maybe alone in this feeling. Before the end of my trip, I had two more people (women about my size and age) try my cart. Nothing. And, nothing. Hmmmn. So, google it is and I found you. Thanks for the dragging chain idea. I will experiment with this:)

B. Char said...

I was shopping at Costco yesterday and received no less than thirty shocks as I wheeled around the store. I tried holding onto just the red plastic part of the handle, and STILL got shocked. I asked three other people who were shopping if they were getting shocked (at the risk of feeling like a lunatic) and they all said they were not being shocked, but dang if it didn't keep on happening. Checkers at Costco said they had been shocked by the carts from time to time.
I talked to the manager, asking him if the building's electrical system was properly grounded, and he politely listened and said he would pass my comment along....

B. Char said...

Just found this link that you all might find interesting. It refines Patrick's dragging-a-chain idea:
http://www.esdjournal.com/articles/Shoppingcarts.htm

Anonymous said...

I just left Wal-Mart and the same thing happened. I thought I was going crazy. The manager thought I was crazy. I have never had this happen to me, so you can see how surprised I was. Glad to know that I'm not alone.

Anonymous said...

I googled this today because earlier I was at Walmart and found myself getting shocked about every 3 steps I took.
And it wasn't just a little, tiny shock either.
It was audible, it was powerful as far as static electricity goes and it was, yes, painful.
I'm a full grown man who has been in automobile collisions over the years, I've been a skateboarder for the past 16 years...I've knocked myself out, I've had surgery, I've torn ligaments and broken bones.
I'm NOT a sensitive guy.
Honestly.
But this was unbelievably painful, likely because it was happening every 3 steps and the 'cracking' sound coming from my hands was proof positive that this was not in my head.
Why does it happen to some and not to others? I wasn't dragging my feet, I was wearing rubber soled shoes...it was ridiculous.
I did shorten my trip after I'd suffered through about 60 of these shocks to my hands and fingers.
C'mon Walmart..it couldn't be too tough to solve this.

Anonymous said...

Sooo FUNNY! This happened to me while I was working in Dayton last week! I thought I was on Candid Camera or being X'd. Then, I changed carts and it kept happening. Finally, I started asking other people in the store. Alot of them said they were getting shocked too!!! ha ha When I went to check out, I asked the checker and she showed me a little grounding bar on the front of the cart that hooks to the underneath basket. It gets pushed up when the carts are stacked, but, if you drop that little bar, it should alleviate the shocks. I've never heard of this and told the people of Ohio, "This is NOT normal." But I guess it is! ha ha

Anonymous said...

I love to see all these posts. My husband also thought I was nuts. I frequently get shocked when I am pushing shopping carts however today was the worst by far!!!.
I was pushing my cart around and talking on my cell phone at the same time. I was pushing the cart around with just one hand so I could keep talking on the phone. The cart started to go too much to the right so i put my other elbow on the other side of the cart to even it out, with the phone still up to my ear and OMG!! I didn't just get a little shock. It started at my hand (the one with the phone in it), and went down my arm to my elbow, through the freaking metal bar and into my other arm. It felt like I had stuck my hand in a light socket. It took my breath away and my heart felt like it was going to jump through my chest. I guess that is what I get for talking on my cell phone too much.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday was the second time I went shopping and got the static charge shock from a grocery cart. This never happen before, just only recently. FYI, i'm not from the US and there is no Walmart here, but I'm relieved that there are many others who had the same experience. Shopping malls need to address this problem because I think there are many more people who has had this same kinda problem. Getting electrocuted each time i go shopping will not be a pleasant experience.

Yours Truly,
Giant Hypermarket Shopper.

Anonymous said...

I was recently repeatedly shocked from a plastic coated cart at Giant Eagle. Unfortunately, I am recuperating from rotator cuff surgery and my shoulder has suffered from the times I jerked my arm from the shocks. I complained and the cashier said 50% of her customers were complaining of the electric shocks. Neither the manager nor corporate was sympathetic or caring about the situation; everyone just said they were "working on" the problem. Obviously, this is not a new problem! I'm furious!

betsy said...

I just googled shopping cart and electric shock, and found this! I'm really surprised to see others had the same experience. I shop all the time at Walmart but today I kept getting electric shocks whenever I would hold onto the cart. First in my left hand and then in my right. I thought I was going crazy, or maybe having a heart attack or stroke, and later started thinking it was carpal tunnel or something. But it wasn't just in my hands, it traveled throughout the body. This is very weird. What can we do to counteract it?

Anonymous said...

OMG...My family and friends think I am strange when I tellthem how much I get shocked in grocery stores and I have even went to different chains of stores, Meijer, Kroger, WalMart etc doesn't matter still happens and it just started happening to me in the last 6months, what in me changed to make this happen, anyone know. So true misery loves company, glad to know I'm not alone, sorry.

Anonymous said...

I just start getting shocked by grcery carts at walmart and costco. I have to waer long sleevs and pull them down over my bare hands to stop the shocks.

Anonymous said...

I seem to get zapped more than anyone I know.

Always at walmart. My car door. Work.

Anonymous said...

We have 2 Walmarts in Roseville California. One I get shopping cart shock from and the other Walmart I do not. Funny thing is that this has only started happening since they did a remodel and did a lot of work on the flooring and tiles in the 1 Walmart. I do not have this problem in any other store just the Walmart off of the 65 fwy in Roseville Ca. that did a remodel. What in the world did they do when they remodeled that is causing this? I now have to wear gloves when I shop just to stop the repeated shocks from the cart.

Anonymous said...

I have had the same experience at Costco. If you are truly "electric" like the person who started this blog, your electric energy system in your body is probably out of balance. It is a subtle energy system. Get Donna Eden's book Energy Medicine from your library and read about it. Then find an Eden Energy Medicine practitioner that can do a long electrical session on you. Really works. I don't get the shocks from light switches anymore like I used to.

Anonymous said...

Count me in.. Happened to me at Wal-Mart tonight but only while pushing the cart up front while passing the cashiers on the way to health and beauty and then again while passing them on the way back to foods but it stopped in the food section. Glad I found this! I was starting to think I was special.. :-)

Brannen Acor said...

I have had this experience at the new WalMarts with no vinyl tile flooring, only buffed concrete. I wonder if it is connected to the new carts' anti theft devices. I don't have a lot of info on them, but supposedly they will stop rolling if taken off premises. I think this might be it because this is a relatively new problem. I never had this happen before a year or two ago.

Anonymous said...

wouldn't a piece of dangling string/twine (which is available at the exit of the Costco in a red box for customers who need to tie something in their car/truck) dangling from the bottom of the cart work as well as a chain? I've seen grocery carts at other stores with pieces of string tied to the bottom for this purpose. I commented on the shocking cart at the costco checkout this afternoon and the box lady said "keep your hands on the plastic" in a somewhat snotty/dismissive tone. Pissed me off about as much as being repeatedly shocked by the stupid cart (I know to "keep my hands on the plastic" but I also know they can do something about the stupid cart shocking me = I'm the customer).

Anonymous said...

So thankful I found this sight. I thought I was the only one this happened to. Thanks! Will work on several of the ideas I've seen on here.

Anonymous said...

My husband thinks I am crazy....but now that I have found this blog, I can prove to him that I am not the only one this happens to. It is only at Wal-Mart and Costco. Holding onto the plastic does not keep me from getting the painful shocks. I have decided that I will need to try wearing some insulated and or rubber gloves to see if that helps. I will post back to let you know the results.