Safeway ordered a new fleet of shopping carts for its store at 17th and Corcoran Streets NW last year. The company paid a little less than $100 apiece for carts smaller and easier to handle than their forerunners. But they weren’t all fitted with the security system that makes the wheels lock when they pass a boundary. So in the last few months, at least 17 carts have disappeared from the “Soviet Safeway.”

“The manager told me, anecdotally, that some customers have seen ‘em in apartment buildings, or that some customers have said they’re good for laundry,” says Safeway spokesperson Craig Muckle.

Some of those customers live in the R Street Apartments a few blocks away at 15th and R Streets. One resident says he often sees two of the carts in front of the building when he goes to work before dawn; they’re always gone when he returns. Another man says that neighborhood kids and homeless people claim the carts for their own. “They ain’t no adults out there stealin’ no shoppin’ carts,” he says.

Resident Andrea White has spotted a couple of the carts herself. “I heard they all over D.C.,” she says. “Somebody been takin’ them things.”