Script: Jonny inventor

Script: Jonny inventor

Jonny Inventor hosts a weekly podcast on the world’s greatest inventions.

Jonny Inventor: Hello, invention fans! Thanks for tuning in. Apologies for those who listened to last week’s podcast – we had technical issues with the website. Today’s podcast is about something we all use, and always take for granted. But we wouldn't be using it if someone hadn't invented it! This week I’m going to tell you all about the invention of the supermarket trolley.

This shopping essential was invented by an American businessman called Sylvan Goldman. Goldman was the owner of the ‘Humpty Dumpty’ supermarket chain in Oklahoma City, the largest city in the state of Oklahoma in the southern US. Having an excellent eye for business, Goldman had noticed that customers in his supermarkets only bought as much as they could carry or put in their baskets. What could Goldman do to increase the amount one customer carried and so increase his profits?

Goldman put on his thinking cap, and came up with an idea that would revolutionize the way people shopped. He realised he had to provide his customers with some sort of big basket on wheels which they could push around his shops and fill with boxes and packets and bottles from the shelves.

So, in 1937, Goldman got a local odd-job man to weld a set of wheels and a large wire basket to a metal folding chair. Goldman tried out this weird contraption himself up and down the aisles of one of his shops, and it did just what he wanted it to do. After a few changes to the design, Goldman employed a local company to build a special metal frame, and weld onto it a set of wheels, a handle and a deep wire basket. Hello, supermarket trolley!

Goldman moved quickly to make sure no other supermarket owners copied his invention. Contacting the US Patent Office, Goldman’s ‘Folding Basket Carriage for Self Service Stores’ was awarded Patent Number two one nine six nine one four. Supermarket shopping would never be the same again.

But it wasn't all plain sailing. The invention wasn’t at all popular when Goldman introduced it into his Humpty Dumpty stores on June 4th, 1937. Men thought they didn't look ‘masculine’ as they pushed a trolley round the aisles, and women complained that the invention reminded them of a baby’s pram. And some customers simply did not know how to use the new-fangled contraption.

So Goldman hired male and female models to push his new invention around his supermarkets and demonstrate how to use them. And at the door of each shop, Goldman placed greeters to explain how a shopping trolley would make shopping much easier.

After a shaky start, supermarket trolleys became very popular, and Goldman became a millionaire by collecting royalties, until his patent ran out, on every ‘Goldman’ trolley used in supermarkets all over America.

Thank you, Mr Sylvan Goldman. Your invention has made life a lot easier each time we go to the supermarket to do the weekly family shop. 

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