the concept of “mystery carts” is all the rage in supermarkets

Products worth 150 euros, sold for 49 euros, blindly in trolleys covered in black plastic: in supermarkets, customers flock to the “mystery trolleys”.



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Mystery carts in the Carrefour hypermarket in Drancy, March 2024. (SOPHIE AUVIGNE / RADIOFRANCE)

After Auchan, Carrefour also offers mystery carts filled with small household appliances, household linen, toys and even DIY items. No food products. All sold at discounted prices but blindly. It is impossible for customers to know in advance what they are buying.

In the Carrefour hypermarket in Drancy, from half past eight in the morning, Jean is one of the first customers. But he’s there to buy a microwave, nothing else: “If it’s to have something that won’t be useful to me, I’m not interested at all.” Much more hesitant, Bouchra examines the ten carts wrapped in black plastic: “I received the message this morning. A trolley worth 150 euros at 49 euros… I don’t know.”

Adrenaline, hope and emotion

Séverine is playful and with her husband’s lucky number, 4, all hopes are allowed: “There is perhaps one in ten shopping carts that is interesting, maybe it will be the right one!” After going to the checkout, for Séverine, it’s a bit like unwrapping presents: “There are household appliances, I think! A footstool, we do a lot of computer work, we’ll be comfortable! To make paella… that’s good, I can’t eat fish. Ah a pasta machine, cool I wanted one! I didn’t lose everything. And the last one… a steam generator. I already have one, I’m going to give it away. Afterwards, otherwise yes , I’m reselling. It’s okay, it’s profitable, maybe we’ll do it again.”

Séverine, a buyer, treated herself to one of the "mystery carts" : several small household appliance products were there.  (SOPHIE AUVIGNE / RADIOFRANCE)

Auchan was the first to start selling surprise trolleys in a store in Dieppe: wildfire, millions of views on social networks.

The consumer has the “feel of saving”

Consumer sociologist Patrice Duchemin perfectly understands customer enthusiasm: “There is a lot of adrenaline, hope, emotion. We forget that the future is not very promising, that there is inflation, that everyday life is not necessarily fun. We has fun and what’s more we have something to talk about. You are the first to have bought the mystery cart so you are a VIP. And therefore consumption can also nourish pride.”

In the match for or against, Jeanne Guien, philosopher, specialist in the history of consumption, does not beat around the bush: “The consumer spends and has the impression of saving. While the brand claims to lose money when in fact it is the one who is saving. The brand gets rid of objects that no longer fit any purpose bring back to him, or even what would have cost him because there is no longer demand for these products, they are unsold. The brands transfer the responsibility for overproduction to the consumer. This always solves the problem of waste by making people consume more.” In Drancy, in less than an hour and a half, the ten carts and their surprises all left.

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