The Grocery Cart Habit You Should Really Break

If you're like most people, you probably don't think too hard about how to use a shopping cart every single time you take a trip to the grocery store. It's such an ingrained part of the shopping experience that it almost seems like common sense to just walk into the store, grab one, and put your items inside of it as you shop. Back in the 1930s, however, people had to be taught the ways of the new invention. Supermarket chain Humpty Dumpty even hired actors to walk around the store, demonstrating to shoppers how to use them.


Over the years, an unspoken shopping cart etiquette was developed. It goes without saying, for example, that it's considered rude to park your cart in the middle of the aisle, blocking the path of other shoppers. And when it comes to returning your cart in the parking lot, most people know that you shouldn't ditch it wherever you want. However, some shoppers have yet to learn that you shouldn't hand your cart directly over to an employee in the process of collecting them. If this is something you always do whenever you spot a cart collector doing their job, there's a good reason you should break the habit.

It's not as helpful as you'd think

Shopping cart collectors don't have an easy job, and it isn't just in extreme weather conditions. They're constantly dealing with drivers who don't see them and kids getting dangerously close to the big train of carts they're pushing. But perhaps the most challenging part about the job is handling so many carts at a time. Cart collectors are taught to push at least 10 carts at a time. If the store uses electronic shopping cart mules, the worker will likely push much more than that.


Maneuvering such long trains of carts is quite the balancing act, and adding more to them than permitted can easily throw off that balance. If you see a cart collector in action, you might think you're saving them time by bringing your cart directly to them instead of putting it in the designated return area, but in reality, you're making their job harder. Unless the employee says it's okay or only has a small number of carts, it's best not to interrupt their process.

Another shopper habit that frustrates cart collectors

But that's not the only way you can annoy cart collectors at the grocery store. When you go to the grocery store, chances are you bring a shopping list with you. You might even bring a plastic water bottle or some Starbucks to sip on while you shop. While there's nothing wrong with doing so, a Trader Joe's employee told Kitchn it's incredibly frustrating when shoppers leave these items and other trash behind in their carts. That also includes any unused plastic bags from the produce section, grocery bags you no longer need, shoe boxes, clothing hangers, and other discarded packaging from your shopping trip. Even if you think you're being polite by returning the hangers to the store or giving plastic bags to the next customer, these items just get thrown away, and a cart collector usually ends up having to do it. Ultimately, when you do this, you've turned a cart collector's single job into two. 


So the next time you're grocery shopping, if you're grabbing a cart and see that someone else left trash in there, don't just transfer it to the next one. It's better to just walk a few extra steps to the trash, especially if you already have it in hand. While picking up after another customer is not expected, cart collectors do find it helpful since they are always dealing with extra trash. They've already got a tough job; there's no reason to make it any harder for them.