Why people don't return shopping carts


Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/05/05/why-people-dont-return-shopp.html

How can you live like this?!

I thought this was in reference to those who take the shopping carts to push their groceries to their homes (sometimes a mile or two away) and don’t return them. Here in northeast Tennessee, this is rampant. You find lonely, sad abandoned shopping carts from grocery stores littering the streets like the bodies of horses and cattle strewn across the fields of the Oregon Trail.


Cool! Now do one on why people always have to wait to park in the spot closest to the supermarket entrance, even if that spot is not available and the one in the next row is.


I might be the odd one out who not only doesn’t use a shopping cart (IKEA big blue bag makes it easier to get around a crowded supermarket), but I also park way in the back of the lot, and round up carts on my way in because I feel bad for the poor sod who has to go round them all up in the rain, and if I’m going that direction anyway. . . .


You’re not alone. I don’t mind the walk, though I only grab a single cart which I’ll return after loading the car.
If I know I’m only getting a bag’s worth of stuff I’ll just drop the cart at the entrance as I enter.


Why people don’t return shopping carts

The obvious answer is laziness, really no mystery here.


And/or assholes.


To save me writing it twice, they’re all fucking arseholes.


I actually think the reason is because of the outdoor receptacles, not in spite of them.

If there are outdoor receptacles, there’s no need to bring the carts back inside. Before there were outdoor receptacles, the carts always went inside, because that’s where carts go, and there’s no kid to take carts from outside and put them in neat little rows inside. That kid’s responsibility used to be your responsibility, so unless you took care of it, there would be cart chaos everywhere.


Because there is no one doolar coin for people to put in to unlock the cart. If’n you have to put money into, people bring em back


I once had my car damaged by a runaway cart. A slight grade and a wind combined to send the cart across the lot and into my taillight. It was about seventy bucks out of my wallet. Because of this I do two things. I always return my cart and sometimes chastise people when I see them not returning their cart. Call me conscientious.


I’m already discouraged by the fact that this article whiffs on the reason I, at least, return my carts.

It has nothing to do with “What others will think of me.”

It has to do with “Will what I am doing now make someone else’s life more difficult?”

They even mention that in the article:

Returners. These people always return their carts to the receptacle regardless of how far away they’ve parked or what the weather is like. They feel a sense of obligation and/or feel badly for the people responsible for collecting the carts.

(“Feel badly” being, again, a mischaracterization; it’s the same thing as holding a door open for someone else. I don’t care what the other person thinks of me; I do it because the effort required for me to do it is much less than the extra effort involved by the other person if I don’t.)

And then they oversimplify this to an “injunctive norm,” and say, “These folks are concerned by what others will think of them on some level, and want to adhere to social rule mandating that the carts are returned.”

That’s an incredibly stupid simplification. It simplifies from “This person is concerned about another person” to “But really, they’re only concerned about the perceptions of the other person, even if they and the employee, are, to each other, anonymous strangers.”


Aldi has it right. Stick a quarter in the cart, use it, return it, get your quarter back. People will walk a half mile to get their quarter back. Fascinating psychology experiment.


Aldi has the right idea: There’s a single cart corral by the door, and the carts are linked together with tiny chains that connect to the handles. You put $.25 into a little slot, and it unlatches your cart from the one in front of it.



Here in the UK, I don’t remember the last time a trolley didn’t require a £1 or €1 deposit.

That said, I think some do exist, with some sort of immobiliser preventing them leaving the car park. Dunno whether they have a problem with lazy non-returners!


Firsties! LOL!


I feel like all the other explanations are just poor justifications for this base truth.


Sometimes I don’t return my shopping cart, especially if it is at a big box type store. I’m helping to provide job security for the workers who round up the carts.


Devils advocate / likely asshole here: I return a cart when it’s convenient, otherwise I just leave it and make sure it won’t roll off and damage anything. I feel no social pressure, nor do I feel bad for the person whose job it is to do a roundup and would be out of work if everyone returned carts.

I suppose what’s acceptable and socially normal can vary in time and by location, but who decided that returning carts is the norm? Is it really normal to do extra work for the corporation? Have we maybe been guilted into this, the way we were guilted into bussing the fast food tables?


I intersect at Returner and Child-Driven Returner.

I don’t have offspring, just an inner child who still loves to ride carts at age 50. I’ll even ride a cart in before I shop if there’s one around.