The doctrine of shopping carts

Shopping Cart

All of the recent attention about shopping carts – who owns them, how to get them off the streets, how we treat people who keep their belongings in them – made me think about how much we rely on shopping carts.

Some people walk into a store and automatically grab a shopping cart, whether or not they need one. I’ve seen people leave their purses in a shopping cart, and then browse nearby shelves. I’ve seen people pushing carts with only one small item at the check-out line.

Whether it’s a grocery store, a drug store, a department store, or a big box store, shopping carts encourage us to buy more and spend more time in the store. It means that stores must design wider aisles and factor in the cost of shopping carts into their pricing. It means that we are tempted to buy things in bulk that we may not need.

I think we could all use shopping carts less, and be more considerate when we do use them. For shoppers who are healthy, able, and don’t plan to buy a lot, I’d like to share my three doctrines for using shopping carts:

Shopping cart doctrine #1: Buy only what you can carry. For me, this means about 5 items that I can comfortably carry (I once carried five two-liter soda bottles in my arms, but that’s my limit). This helps me spend less, spend less time shopping, and resist unplanned purchases.

Shopping cart doctrine #2: Take a basket (if one is offered). Carrying a basket helps me spend less and resist unplanned purchases, and also gives me the option of putting the basket down if I want to look at something more carefully. By avoiding a shopping cart, I can navigate aisles easier, without worrying about bumping anyone or running over someone’s toes.

Shopping cart doctrine #3: Be a courteous carter. If you must take a cart (you’re purchasing a lot of things, buying a large item, or just have a young child who loves riding in race car carts), be courteous to other shoppers. Do practice safe driving. Do not put pets in the cart. Do return carts to the store or a shopping cart return. Do not leave carts between parking stalls, where they can bump other cars. Do ask permission if you must take it home, and return it when you are finished. Do not abandon carts on the street.

Do you rely on shopping carts too much? Do you tend to spend a little more when you use a shopping cart? Are you a courteous carter?

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