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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

The Shopping Cart Test

You can learn all you need about someone from how they handle a shopping cart

Working from home, getting out of the house is often challenging – even when I know it’s good for my mental health. I do, however, hit one location just about every single day: the grocery store. While I love the infinite possibilities contained within the confines of my local Kroger, I don’t go there to marvel at the options. As empty nesters, we often don’t decide our dinner plans in advance, which means going to the grocery store daily tends to be a necessity.

Lately, I’ve taken notice of a recent uptick in the sheer amount of shopping carts abandoned in the parking lot. They block parking spots, contribute to door dings, and create a lot of frustration for store employees and patrons alike. As I sauntered up and down the aisles last week, I started thinking about the shopping cart issue and how it’s really the most accurate litmus test for someone’s character. I know it seems like a bit of a stretch, but roll with me for a moment.

I sense that just about everyone reading this will agree that taking the time to push a shopping cart to a collection bin after loading your car with foodstuffs is the right thing to do. At the same time, no rule states shoppers HAVE TO return carts to the collection area; it’s 100% a personal choice where failing to do so has no negative impact on the person who leaves a cart half-on, half-off a curbed median.

As I thought about this, I decided there are three types of people in the world, and it translates perfectly to just about any business:

  1. People who leave the cart in the parking lot – unless there are mitigating circumstances like a medical or family emergency, this is just plain lazy. In a professional environment, this type of worker doesn’t give total effort because “it’s somebody else’s job.”

  2. People who take the cart to the collection bin – whether blistering hot, bone-chillingly cold, or pouring down rain- do the right thing - even when they suffer a bit because of it. At work, they can be counted on to do their job, hit deadlines, and are generally very strong employees. They will always “own their job.”

  3. Take ANY cart they see to a collection area or back to the store – personally, it restores my faith in humanity when I see someone park their car, snag an abandoned cart, and roll it back inside to use for their shopping experience. On the job, these are the people who freely help others, think in terms of how things can be better for everyone, and are true team players who believe “we are all in this together.”

The best organizations have a combination of people who return their shopping carts to their rightful place and the ones who will take any cart back – whether they used it or not. Conversely, the organizations that struggle employ people who freely abandon carts and assume someone else can - and will - do the dirty work.


Next time you feel your company isn’t operating at peak performance, look around and find the people who leave metaphorical shopping carts everywhere with little care to it may impact others. Once you identify them, allow them to become a better cart manager, but don’t hesitate to force them to shop at a different store if you continue to see abandoned shopping carts.

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