Who Let the Carts Out?

Paying a quarter to wrench a shopping cart off a chain has become an annoying yet accepted part of suburban life. But do these shopping-cart corrals and their accompanying chains amount to shopping-cart cruelty?

For Inga Barnabas, vendocartologist, the answer is a definite yes.

"Look at the typical behavior of a shopping cart," she explains. "It goes into the supermarket, rolls down various aisles, is filled with groceries, leaves the foraging area, disgorges the food, and then freely roams for a period of time before it congregates with its fellow carts and then begins the process all over again." She says that even slightly delinquent activities, such as tussling with other carts or slamming into automobiles, is part and parcel of normal cart behavior and shouldn't be viewed as aberrant.


Barnabas says that not permitting this free-roaming activity in the parking lot adversely affects the carts' psyche. "These shopping carts spend way too much of their down time crammed together in close quarters, and as we all know, too much togetherness is not beneficial to anybody."

Another concern is the fact that a survival-of-the-fittest mentality starts to kick in. "The healthy carts are always in the front of the stack," she notes. "They get many trips into the market. People pop the quarter in, pull out the first cart in the line and use it, unless it's really in bad shape. Then the cart is put in the front of the line again. Meanwhile, the carts in the back sit and sit and don't get out until the store has an extremely busy day. Many times no one notices if they have a wheel that's out of alignment or a baby seat that won't open."

Barnabas notes the carts are also subject to abuse when shoppers don't have quarters handy or have trouble inserting the key. "Worst of all is when they can't get their quarters back," she says, shaking her head. "Shoppers pull and jerk the chains, inflicting much physical and emotional trauma on the poor carts.

"The whole concept of paying a quarter for a shopping cart is so ridiculous," she adds. "What does it accomplish? Surely someone wanting to steal a cart won't be deterred by twenty-five cents! And is it so difficult to find a shopping cart in the parking lot? Are people so stupid that they can't figure it out and must have carts all lined up for them?"




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