Shopping carts and character

– There are two kind of people: those who return their shopping carts and those who don’t. –

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 6

  1. I always return carts but never thought of anyone watching. One day I returned home after a very long day of errands & my neighbor meet me at my drive to thank me for returning my cart. He had seen me in the store parking lot early that morning when I thought no one was around. Behavior shouldn’t ever change because yoh don’t think anyone’s watching!

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  2. At age 74 I love to show I’m still a Girl Scout and I always return my grocery cart and even remove one from a possible pull through parking space to free up that safest space to park!

  3. 100 years ago Nobel Prize winner Albert Schweitzer “expanded” the “Golden Rule” to include all living things! Consider if we treated future generations also as our neighbors — we’d show we care to leave the earth cleaner than we found it!

  4. Sometimes it feels like a curse, when I get out of my car and look for a stray cart or two to take back to the front of the store, even when I have my carry bag in hand.

  5. Dear Mr. Josephson,
    Many years ago( it seems like only a few) I read this commentary on your site. It provided the impetus for a Character reinforcing activity I have used in schools since 2000 or 2001. Every Friday at lunch we pass around a six Pillar bucket filled with slips of “Pillar colored” construction paper with “good deeds” that grade 3-5 students can do such as read a book to a younger student, hold open a door, pick up trash on the playground or at home and my favorite ” take back an extra cart at a big box store”. I remind our students that no one checks on them, they do not have to take one and they are not going to “get anything” in return for their act of kindness. It has worked very well as a reinforcer for students in grades three-five. I previously used it with MS students and it worked well with them. It is a simple way to reinforce the intrinsic rewards of helping others and doing the right thing.
    Bruce Blankley, Guidance Counselor

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