Some call it a cart, some call it a buggy.  The question is, why don't people return them to the store after they're done with them?  Here's what science says about it...

I probably have what most people would consider an unpopular opinion about returning grocery carts to the store.  You see, I used to work for Tops as a cart person.  That was my main job.  Go out into the parking lot and keep it free from carts.  Simple as that.  Because of that, I used to hate it when people would return the carts all the way to the store.  If the lot was clean, I had to do other jobs, like bagging groceries or sweeping the aisles (which I really didn't like).  I would much rather be outside in the fresh air (yes, even in the winter) collecting carts  If I was being active, the time seemed to fly by faster.  I know...it's weird.  But that's just me.

The problem with just leaving your cart in the parking lot is that it damages cars and often makes it more of a hassle to park.  So why wouldn't people just do as they should and either return them to the store or put them in the cart corral?

According to a study in Scientific American and shared on Mental Floss, here's what science has to say about it...

First, there are a couple reasons why someone would not return their cart:

  • It's too far from where they parked
  • They have a small child with them and returning it without leaving your child can be difficult
  • The weather is bad and it's hard to push
  • They aren't able to push it due to physical complications
  • It's someone else's job to do that - that's what the store pays them to do

There were a bunch of experiments done to prove why people would leave them instead of returning them to the corral or the store and essentially it came down to what other people were doing.

"Cart returners might be motivated by social pressure—they fear a disapproving glance from others—or precedent. If no other carts have been tossed aside, they don’t want to be first."

In other words, if everyone else returned their carts, they also would in order to avoid being the outlier.

So what do you do?  Do you return them?  Or do you just leave them wherever in the parking lot?