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shopping cart abandonment

Why Don’t People Return Their Shopping Carts?

I was walking through a parking lot the other day and I saw at least 8 shopping carts that the previous user did not return to the store or cart return area. This is something that has been bothering me for weeks – why do people think it’s ok to not return their carts? I think when you use a cart, you have a responsibility to use it properly and return it when you’re done.

Cart by Rick Hall, Undeniable Ruth

Cart by Rick Hall

I posted a question about it on Facebook  and I was shocked when the first 4 commenters admitted that they regularly don’t return their carts. These were their excuses in a nutshell:

  1. I have my kids with me.
  2. I physically can’t walk that far.
  3. By leaving my cart out, I’m keeping a clerk/cart attendant employed.
  4.  If the cart return is more than a few spaces away, I’m not going to use it.

I don’t buy any of those excuses.

  1. Take your kids with you to return your cart or lock them in the car for the 1-2 minutes it takes you to return the cart. If the kid is old enough, make the kid return it for you.
  2. The store will assign a clerk to assist you to your car, load your groceries, and take your cart back for you upon request.
  3. Bullshit – The store will still employ a clerk to collect the carts from cart returns.
  4. Are you fucking kidding me?

My mother had me 21 months after giving birth to twins. I called her and she said she always returns her cart. If she can shop with 3 babies and not leave a cart in the middle of the parking lot, you would be hard pressed to find a valid reason (besides an extreme emergency) for not returning your cart.

This problem and all the comments on my Facebook page about this issue made me wonder what’s the underlying issue here. Is it laziness? Entitlement? Selfishness? Thoughtlessness?

How would you feel if your car was dented by a rogue shopping cart that was blown into your car by a strong gust of wind?

How would you feel if the teenage clerk got hit by a car while retrieving the cart you failed to put away?

Shopping carts are expensive. When they’re damaged they need to be replaced. Stores pass that cost along to you. Don’t bitch about the cost of groceries if you’re part of the problem.

My obvious reaction to this problem is to scream “Put your fucking cart away!” but I think the bigger challenge is to address the pervasive underlying problem and ask how do we create a community where people think beyond the immediate moment and consider the greater good for themselves and others?