Shopping Carts and Rationalizations 733.5

When we think about character, we tend to envision really big things, like taking heavy risks, committing bold acts of integrity, being grandly generous, or making tough sacrifices.

Such noble choices indicate character, but for the most part, our integrity is revealed in much smaller events, like apologizing when we’re wrong, giving to causes we believe in, being honest when it may be embarrassing, or returning shopping carts.

One of my favorite stories is about a father who asked his son to return a cart they had just used. The son protested, “C’mon, Dad. There are carts all over. No one returns them. That’s why they hire people to collect them.”

After a short argument, mom chimed in, “For heaven’s sake, it’s no big deal. Let’s go.”

Dad was about to surrender when he saw an elderly couple walking together to return their cart.

He said, “Son, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who put their carts away and those who don’t. We’re the kind who return theirs. Now go return the cart.”

Which kind are you?

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 8

  1. Since the last time this commentary ran I have wanted to ask people directly associated with retail stores for their opinions. This past February I just happened to be at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas during the same time as the National Grocers Association annual convention and I talked to several attendees about this shopping cart issue. Here is a representative sampling of their comments and I will let them stand on their own:
    National grocery chain store manager:

  2. Given the damage people CAN cause to shopping carts by being less than careful in how they return the carts, perhaps a better example would be theater trash. Many people leave their trash in the theater when they depart. Some theaters have quick videos requesting patrons use the waste cans. All theaters have staff who clean up after patrons, and such staff would be necessary even if most of us used the trash recepticles.
    Be Well,
    Bob Griffin

  3. Understand your perception James, but its rude for people to leave their carts in parking spaces where they roll and run into other peoples cars. Some prop them up on curbs but for most of us– a ‘little more walking’ couldn’t hurt! The corrals as you call it are all over – there is no excuse NOT to put them back EASILY.
    Perhaps if people respected the carts you wouldn’t have high cart costs, come on now, there’s enough selfishness & irresponsibility in the world – I’m a proud responsible cart ‘driver’ and I ALWAYS return my cart! If there’s lines out the door at a store, I want everybody helping not having to chase carts down. Appreciate your perspective but people can do better.

  4. The comments from retailers that James posted are interesting in that each was totally focused on cost and profitability of the store.
    I always return the carts to the corrals not really thinking about convenience or savings for the store, but out of concern for other customers. How many times are you unable to pull into a parking spot because a shopping cart was left there? And who has not seen a cart blown by the wind (or just moving because the lot is not level) hit into another car?
    So I return the cart to make sure it doesn’t damage someone else’s car or block a spot that someone else wants to use. And I appreciate others doing the same.

  5. I agree … the issue of returning carts is not one of convenience to the store, it is a matter of respect for the other shoppers. Not only is it frustrating to find carts blocking parking places or rolling through the lot, it is equally frustrating to approach a store only to find no carts available because they are scattered throughout the parking area and the store has not had a chance to retrieve them. In Arizona, this can be further complicated by the fact that the cart you eventually go out to retrieve is too hot to touch because of the 110-degree sun.
    I do find it interesting, though, that all the grocers’ concerns about expense to damaged carts didn’t include the ones left in parking spaces and “moved” by drivers trying to edge them out of the way as they park.

  6. 20 years ago, I remember my geriatric neighbor telling me that of course he racks his cart when he leaves the store, but when he parks he always brings a cart back into the store. What does it cost you in energy? Beautify America!, he said.

  7. My question is this: If only a FEW people complain about the POTENTIAL damage that leaving shopping carts present, is it really an ethical question? Could it not be said that those complaining are showing poor character by making a big deal over something that doesn

  8. I often take the shopping cart idea one step further. If I see a shopping cart that has just been pushed aside, I take that cart into the store with me.

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