Why Don’t People Return Shopping Carts to the Store?

What do we do when we see a person blatantly push a shopping cart into the driveway without putting it back? We may do nothing, but more than likely, we’ll internally judge the person. However, there are many reasons why scolding them might be a harsh reaction. You never know what a person is going through, so judging someone based on one action isn’t fair. What are some reasons why people don’t return shopping carts to the store? Read on to explore common factors that might surprise you.

They Have a Mobility Impairment

It’s important to keep this in mind when we talk about the different methods of shopping cart storage. Many people can’t get around well enough to exert themselves to push a cart back to the store. Instead of judging them, consider that disability can take a toll on people and make the grocery trip alone an exhausting ordeal, much less pushing the same cart back to the store.

Try to think about that possibility before you pass judgment on someone you don’t know. It might be better for the employee to handle it rather than force someone to do something that will leave them in pain because of their mobility differences. 

Shopping Carts Are Already in the Parking Lot

There is a scientific phenomenon called “broken window theory,” popularized by James Q. Wilson and George Kelling in 1982. Essentially, the theory posits that when people see a place or situation that indicates signs of neglect or disarray, people are more likely to abandon social norms and further contribute to that disarray.

The example used in broken window theory cites a broken window causing people to neglect and degrade the environment further, adding graffiti and potentially littering in the area. In other words, people neglect and cause further disarray because other people are doing it.

You can apply this same theory to shopping carts. Given that it’s a relatively small faux pas, most people don’t think twice about leaving a shopping cart in the middle of a parking lot because other people are doing it.

Some People Are More Goal-Oriented

Some people are goal-oriented; it doesn’t even occur to them to put the cart back. They could be rushing to a meeting, hurrying home to take care of kids, or actively working on a project. Given that leaving carts in the parking lot is a small faux pas and relatively wide-ranging incident, they could just not have the cart at the top of their list of priorities. Life happens, and given the number of factors that could suddenly alter our behavior, this may be one of the reasons why people don’t return shopping carts to the store.

In conclusion, reconsider that gut reaction. You never know what others can be dealing with. Seeing someone leave a shopping cart in the parking lot can be a useful exercise in empathy rather than a chance to judge people you don’t know.

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Written by Logan Voss

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