Shopping Cart Morality

Image: xedos4 /

As far as I can tell, there are three types of people in the world. Those who always return their shopping carts to the cart rack, those who don’t, and those who return their carts only when it is convenient or when someone makes a point of reminding them to do it.

I have said on many occasions, being a moral person isn’t about the big good vs. evil decisions. Those are easy to make. The real challenge of moral living is doing the right thing when the stakes are low. In other words, a moral person does the right thing because it’s the right thing to do and not just because it’s convenient.  

Moral people don’t do the right thing to make themselves look good, though that is obviously a benefit. They do the right thing because they understand they are responsible for their actions and they find value and pride in doing their part, however small, to make the world a slightly better place.

When it comes to carts, not putting the carts back is a problem. It makes parking lots dangerous and does real damage to people’s properties. If you dislike driving into a parking lot and not being able to find a place to park your car because all the spots have carts in them, then the question you need to ask yourself is this: are you part of the problem or part of the solution. Because if you are not putting your carts back, you are part of the problem. Only putting them some of the time means you aren’t putting them back all the time.

Imagine if everyone put their carts back. Now, go and do your part to make that happen. Be a Humanist and do the right thing every time and not just when it is convenient.


  1. I had to check the post because the system here in Sweden is to pay for your cart with a coin and get it back when yoiu return it...and sure enough the carts in the photo are european...they have a little key hanging off them. You have to put a 5 kr (about a dollar) or in the rest of europe a euro ($1.30) in the slot to get one, and you get it back when you attach the key to the one in front of you when you return the cart to the corral. Morality is good. All the time, each time, agreed...But those carts in the photo got put back because of personal interest and incentive ;)

  2. How funny - wasn't even thinking of that, was just looking for images of carts I could use. We should do that here, because seriously - the cart issue is a pet peeve of mine. Of course in England, they have a problem of people pitching the carts into the canals and creating hazards for the boat traffic. (sigh)

  3. What an interesting idea - leave it to the Swedes to solve the cart problem! A couple of years ago, my neighbors apparently stole a cart from the grocery store in town. It sat out in their front yard for ages before it vanished as mysteriously as it first appeared.

    I'm proud to say that I always return carts. Unfortunately, that pride has to be tempered by the admission that I actively look for a parking spot close to a cart corral, which diminishes the effort needed to return them.

    Great reflection on the importance of moral behavior in the "small" things.

  4. Don't feel guilty about picking your parking spots to make cart return easy. I do that too. I like to put that in the category of thinking before I act to maximize my success in life. It's a very Humanistic approach to life to think before you act. So, double points to you!

  5. When you are walking into the store and you see someone done unloading their cart in the parking lot - offer to take the cart with you. You should see the grateful smiles on their faces!

  6. Jen, this can apply to a lot of other situations. I really dislike people chucking rubbish out of cars into the road. Why can't they take it home and put it in the rubbish bin. Think Cafeterias, do you take the used crockery and cutlery back to the used station or leave it at the table for some one else to tidy up.

    I remember see finding day trippers' picnic rubbish left at a park after a drive down the Sea-Sky highway in British Columbia, which did not look nice and unexpected in Canada. Tidiest country I have visited is Denmark.

    Here in the UK, we do have the coin return system, but still some wag finds a way to beat the system and leave shopping trolleys lying around

  7. Great...I am type of person that puts the cart away all the time b/c I find it anonoying when carts are you follow your moral code all the time or some of the time?

  8. Wyocowboy - things like this I am able to do all the time. It's easy. The problem area I think for everyone, including me, is that I am not always able to express compassion as adequately as I would like. I loose my cool just like everyone else. What I try to do when that happens is to not say anything too snarky or mean while I'm feeling snarky and mean. I find reminding myself to be compassionate helps a lot. I'm not perfect at this, but I do at least attempt to live by my values as much as possible. And when I fail, I remind myself to be compassionate with myself because - really, we only can exert a moderate amount of control over our emotions.

    But things like putting my cart back - yup - all the time.

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  10. I always put the carts back in the rack. My mom told me about a guy she saw at a Walgreens who was annoyed to find a cart in a parking spot after starting to pull into it. So he stopped his car and actually picked up the cart and threw it into the grassy area in front of his parking spot. What an idiot.


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