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ONLY ON 3: Free rides put Cartmen out of business

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A donation-based transportation business has closed up shop, but what will that mean for safety in downtown Wilmington?

Anybody who has been downtown since 2009 has probably seen the Cartmen zipping around the streets, but the business is being curbed.

When the Cartmen of Wilmington started back in 2009, owner Bryan Metzger says it was a business he felt downtown needed.

"It was to detour crime and help people get from one point to another without feeling afraid," Metzger said. "The one rule I had was women and children first, so it was a priority to make sure that people got from one place to another, and when we brought them to their house, we made sure they got into their house."

The idea was new to many in the Port City, including Ginger Sauls, who says she got a good laugh out of her first experience with Cartmen.

"I had come from out of state, and I had heard about it at a hotel I had worked at, and I was like, 'What's a cartman?'" she said. "I needed to call them for a guest, and they showed up, and I thought it was a coolest thing, and it amazed me that they didn't have a set price. They went by tips only."

While many patrons tipped quite generously, Metzger says some businesses took advantage by asking Cartmen to make deliveries.

"The problem with the businesses downtown is they didn't want to pay us. I was doing a service for them, and I wasn't getting paid," Metzger said.

Metzger says the wear and tear on his carts caused by these free rides ultimately put him out of business and in doing so may have made downtown a more dangerous place.

"It already has," he said. "The three years we were doing it seemed like you didn't hear much about people getting jumped and things happening. Now the kid got killed."

Metzger says he hopes the Cartmen idea is not completely done in Wilmington. He thinks with the right investors, his carts could be giving rides again.

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