Woman stirs debate with 'test' for supermarket shoppers: 'You're literally making someone's life hell'
If you’ve ever taken a philosophy or ethics class, you’re probably familiar with the trolley problem — a thought experiment that reveals that moral psychology and decision-making isn’t always black-and-white.
In a similar vein, TikTok user __ashleyp shared something called the shopping cart theory. The theory asks, “There is no dire emergency. Do you accept your duty to return the cart even though you gain nothing?”
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Returning your cart is an easy task and socially understood to be the polite thing to do after loading your car. But at the same time, it’s not illegal to just abandon your cart. Employees come around and collect them and return them anyway, so what’s the big deal if you leave it?
“The shopping cart test is the ultimate litmus test for whether a person is capable of self-governing,” __ashleyp explains in the TikTok.
You gain nothing by returning the shopping cart and lose nothing by not returning it. But ultimately, you know returning the shopping cart is the right thing to do.
What the theory suggests then is that if you return the shopping cart — even if there’s nobody else in the parking lot and no employees can see you — but solely because you know it’s correct, you’re a good member of society.
If you thought about it and think “Well, what if I just don’t feel like putting it back?” you might not be the most moral person.
While there are some arguments that say the whole theory is ableist, to the people who don’t return the cart because they want to “give an employee work,” they are welcome to leave society.
Cart gathering is a side job of the bagger. Each bagger gets one hour to collect. It doesn’t extend anyone’s hours. If you can’t wrangle almost all the carts in that time it actually gets them in trouble. You’re literally making someone’s life hell.
— Angry Mike Higdon (@MikeHigdon) May 16, 2020
You have a point. If I take a dump in a public restroom, I just leave it for someone else to flush, because it’s someone’s job to clean up after me! How sad that they wouldn’t have a job without me! Lol.
— Julia Southwick (@JRsouthwick) May 17, 2020
Grocery store employees responded to the theory, disagreeing with people who assume leaving the cart abandoned actually helps them with their jobs.
I worked at a grocery store in the past and you’d be absolutely shocked at how many people don’t. Even worse often they’ll like kick it up on the curb so it doesn’t roll away, meaning they literally put effort into not returning it.
— deacon blues (@mercedestractor) May 15, 2020
“I used to work at a supermarket. Please return your trolley,” one person commented on the TikTok. “It sucks going around the car park finding all the abandoned ones and putting them back.”
“I return them because I remember how miserable it was working at a grocery store and have to collect them in the sweltering heat,” another commenter replied.
Others had more sentimental reasons for why they returned their carts.
“If I see a cart I take it back to a spot because when I was a kid someone told me the carts were family and missed each other when left behind,” someone wrote.
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