ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook. Eat right, sleep well, wash your hands often. These are the keys to good health, but there's something you might want to avoid, as well, says Jason Kirsch: shopping carts. He should know; he owns a grocery store.
Mr. JASON KIRSCH (Grocery Store Owner): Shopping carts are actually one of the most infest I guess might be the word, right word, or germ-harboring item there is. Shopping carts are actually worse than a public restroom toilet seat, a soap dispenser, a pay phone.
SEABROOK: This is Chevy Chase Supermarket in the Washington suburbs. It's family-owned. Jason Kirsch is showing off his newest contraption. It looks like a cross between an airport metal detector and a car wash.
What is this thing I'm standing next to?
Mr. KIRSCH: It's the newest way to sanitize all the cards, be it a shopping cart to a kid's cart to hand cart. It sanitizes 99 percent of all the harmful bacteria, influenza, E. Coli, salmonella, all the nasty bugs nobody wants to touch and deal with.
SEABROOK: Can you show me how this works?
Mr. KIRSCH: Sure. It's a very simple process. Baskets can go through either side. It'll fit every basket and everything I have in the store, and if there's something that doesn't fit, there is a stand-alone hand wand that I can spray.
Mr. KIRSCH: Once the cart's lined up in the middle, all you have to do is push the button, it turns on, sprays a fine mist, the cart goes through, and you take it out the other side. It's that fast, a couple seconds for every cart.
SEABROOK: And it comes out the other side. It's wet.
Mr. KIRSCH: The surfaces are guaranteed safe for human contact, guaranteed safe for food contact. So there's no problem touching it. It's FDA-EPA approved.
All of my cashiers and baggers down front, when they're working down front, have little remote controls that they can use. That way, there's no chance of it turning on suddenly. If little Johnny runs through it, he's not going to get sprayed. There's no issues where that's concerned.
SEABROOK: What do you mean by kids' carts? What are you talking about?
Mr. KIRSCH: If you look down front, we've got carts that look like fire trucks, police cars, carts that hold three or four kids. The first the kids do is chew, touch, feel, slobber, everything except for sit nice and neat. Occasionally, the kids have accidents in the carts, and people don't tell us about it because they're embarrassed. So the germs can last a long time on there, and they build up.
SEABROOK: Has anybody come in and said this whole germophobia thing, it's just over the top?
Mr. KIRSCH: Oh, there are people that say that, absolutely, and I do believe that you shouldn't medicate for every littlie sniffle for my kid. I think that does help to build up some of the immune system, no question about that, but I think there's a lot of things that are worth controlling and are absolutely worth looking out for.
SEABROOK: Do you think it's attracting - I mean, it's only been in a couple days. Do you think it's attracting more customers?
Mr. KIRSCH: Based on the customer feedback, it's a home run, without a doubt, and I think as word of mouth spreads around, I think everybody's really going to enjoy it, and I do think it's going to bring in more customers, absolutely.
SEABROOK: I trolled the store for reaction from actual customers.
Hi, we're talking to people about this new cart wash.
Unidentified Man (Shopper, Chevy Chase Supermarket): Yes.
SEABROOK: Do you know about it?
Unidentified Man: Yes, I know about it.
SEABROOK: What do you think?
Mr. GERARD SHEENY(ph): I think it's good idea because during the, you know, during the winter, everybody's got a cold or a sniffle, and I think you can get a lot of these germs from carts.
SEABROOK: Do you think that people are getting a little too germophobic?
Ms. SUE HOLMES: Shopper, Chevy Chase Supermarket): You know, I'm thinking we're getting a little carried away. I mean, we've lived a while, and we're still here.
(Soundbite of music)
SEABROOK: Sisters Betty Davis and Sue Holmes, plus Gerard Sheeny.
The Pure Cart cart wash is already in 20 stores around the country. These customers say they're all for anything that can make shopping healthier and less stressful.
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