Shopping cart

Are you returning your basket?

A fruitful exercise is to ask readers what irritates them, which I often do in my newsletter. This opens up an avalanche of documents, from “Forms: Why does my child’s swim school need my dentist’s name?” to “Golf: uh”.

This week I heard from Cameron Spears from Odessa. He suggested I write about shopping carts or people who don’t return them. “It fascinates me and annoys me,” he said. Well, Cameron, same. This offense has been chilling on my list of pet peeves for some time.

In my wild and cheeky youth, back in the days of Candies tracksuits and platform flip-flops, I confess to dropping carts everywhere. I half credit an ex for changing his mind. Half credit because his reasoning was, “Imagine what the cart guy could do if he wasn’t busy cleaning your carts!”

Now, returning a cart doesn’t mean a store employee will remove their tag and become a full-time infectious disease specialist. Retail workers are busy without cart neglect, and they deserve respect for what they do. But it got me thinking: I had no excuse for being a lazy pink terry bag. Returning my cart was an easy start.

An overturned cart behind Target in Clearwater. [ STEPHANIE HAYES | Times ]

This relative ease is at the heart of shopping cart theory, a viral meme that posits, “The shopping cart is the ultimate test of whether a person is capable of self-government. Returning the basket is an easy and convenient task that we all recognize as the correct and proper thing to do. »

Because punishment is mostly non-existent, the theory goes, returning a cart is intrinsic good faith. Generally, I agree that it’s a small thing humanity can do when we’re not slapping ourselves to death against a backdrop of staggering galactic insignificance. But there are caveats, opportunities to blunt judgement.

Scientific American dug deeper into cart behavior in 2017, using terms such as “injunctive standards” and “descriptive standards.” Anthropologist Krystal D’Costa indicated who might not comply. This includes parents who cannot leave babies alone. Buyers may have physical limitations, visible and invisible disabilities.

Then there’s a more baffling cohort of rebels who believe they’re keeping people benevolently employed by turning the Publix lot into the Tough Mudder. This, my friends, is mental gymnastics, and I wish you good luck in the Olympics!

So, what’s the status of cart compliance in Tampa Bay? In the name of anthropology (harassment), I spent a few hours observing (looking like a dirty bugger) people. I sat in my car, peering over sunglasses and sipping a tall Sprite Zero with ice nuggets, a cut-price detective. The Dale Mabry Walmart in Tampa seemed the most chaotic, unlike the tidy Publix two miles south. By the time I arrived at the Clearwater Mall, the strollers were in disarray: target carts overturned behind the building, Costco carts big enough to carry several capybaras found across the premises, a PetSmart cart existentially screaming.

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A collection of shopping carts at Costco in Clearwater.
A collection of shopping carts at Costco in Clearwater. [ STEPHANIE HAYES | Times ]

Among the varieties of cart disposal:

Sidewalk cart: This one is a puzzle. The buyer had to maneuver it from the ground into the mulch. The Apple Watch is on after that; one wonders if a simple stroll to the bay of the carts would have burned less Kcals.

Parking cart: The worst cart! One thousand negative bonus points if the cart is in the accessible space. Out of shame.

Cart pushed just out of reach of customer’s car into someone else’s car: Two thousand negative bonus points!

Cart right next to the cart bay: They made it all the way to the cart receptacle and then, I guess, were removed.

Lost Boys Carts: Abandoned carts that have formed a club.

Cart with mysterious food/feast open birds: Why is it always a roast chicken?

Carriage moment of truth: This basket is at a crucial moment. The buyer unloaded three pallets of Kirkland water, a value pack of Brownie Bites, two electric toothbrushes and incredible amounts of Pinot Grigio. The buyer looks askance. Will he leave the cart? Will he walk 25 feet? Suddenly, he is saved when a woman gets out of her car in search of a cart, completing the cycle by…

The transfer cart: This chaos begins again.

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