Monday, May 24, 2021

Defending the Shopper Who Leaves the Shopping Cart in the Parking Lot


See Dr. Block's discussion of litter in the private sector in Defending the Undefendable. Maybe people want their carts retrieved as a convenience---which may increase the number employed by a grocery store.

To return the cart might cause a cart retriever to have to seek other employment, which would be less desirable because he chose the cart retriever job in the first place.



  1. I rarely return carts. Why? Years ago, as a teenager working at a grocery store, my options were: standing still, bagging groceries; being outside, moving carts. Since being outside was much more desirable -- to me, anyway -- I leave my cart in the parking lot as a gift, so to speak, to younger versions of me: those who would rather be paid to be outside than inside. If the result is a marginal increase in grocery costs, so be it.

    If the claim is my actions result in higher costs for those who do not share my preferences, then I have many counterclaims. As an example, I never ask an employee where to find good X. But if someone does, the cost of that interaction is shared by me. And I have no issue.

    If the cost of ancillary services (helpful employees, cart returners, etc.) are more than folks are willing to pay, they can shop at a store where services and costs are more in line with their preferences.

    1. They didn't employ teenagers as cashiers? That was my first job at 15 and at a major supermarket.

    2. The store was unionized. A cashier was not an entry-level position.

    3. There is another benefit with the stranding of used carts in the lot.

      Many arriving customers will park their vehicle near a stranded cart for the explicit purpose of placing a small child in it, or in the case of the elderly, using the cart in lieu of a cane or walker.

      We would never claim these customers are stealing the work of the cart retriever or adding to it, since they will leave that same cart at the same location for possible use by the next similarly minded arriving customer.

      A best outcome scenario.

    4. Boss,
      Well, here's the thing:
      If there is an agreed upon plan that customers would leave carts helter skelter across the parking area for the use of mothers, elderly, etc. as you claim, well, that's ok then. It's kinda like a local rule. (the best kind). If there's a convenient, well marked collection area, I ALWAYS return the cart there. Those in need can always retrieve carts there without going all the way to the store itself. But that's your win-win situation right there.

  2. Unless their are specifc instructions regarding the placement of the cart after use, then since it is the property of the store owner and on store property, the entire responsibility falls on the store owner. Generally speaking, the only responsibility that a former user of the cart might have is to put it in a location and orientation such that it is not an immediate obstacle to vehicle traffic after which the cart retriever employee can then prioritize the retreival based on location, distance, cart clusters, and the number of available carts still available for use at the store entrance. Having every cart user return the cart to the store entrance would result in more accidents with the doubling of the amount of per-customer parking lot foot traffic and like those in vehicles, really wanting to get the hell out of there. Everything is better having the store handle the situation.

  3. Acting in a self interest way I do think that customers returning carts to the place or places designated by the store could help keep costs down and be reflected in lower prices. I do it if I have the enough time.

  4. I personally tend to place my cart in those "collection bins" in the parking lot, assuming that's the right phrase for it. However, I do that because I've seen carts get pushed across a parking lot in a strong wind and into parked cars, causing damage.

    But I haven't pushed a cart back into a store since I was a kid.

  5. When we were spirited, unbridled teenagers with no awareness of property rights, we would go to the K-Mart store parking-lot late at night and push carts around with our car at 35-mph, causing them to flip over the curb or smash into the dumpster. We employed a lot of shopping-cart makers, I imagine.
    But I digress...