Shopping Cart Etiquette on the Decline in America: Ponder & Apply

Shopping Cart Etiquette on the Decline in America: Ponder & Apply

Every day more and more examples of the lack in shopping cart etiquette are seen in stores across America. Imagine entering a store, list ready and rolling along with your cart. Soft contemporary music mingles with announcements of sales on various items. Looking forward to the crackers in aisle four, I round the corner only to a screech to a halt.

Once again, I am faced with gross violations of shopping cart etiquette. A sample cart has caused a traffic jam right next to the lemons and limes. Carts are abandoned in mid aisle. Women leave their purses unattended. Young children stand up in shopping carts crying to be given the sample displayed in the pill cup. Men stand still staring at the ceiling while munching a single bite of stuff smaller than he would normally take on a fork. Hasn’t anyone taught folks to move a cart to the side so others can pass? Has everyone lost their minds for these morsels of who-knows-what marketing techniques?

By now, other shoppers have rolled up behind me. I have no escape! A wave of possible responses rush to my consciousness. I could easily:

  1. Begin to yell, thereby drawing attention to the breaches of cart etiquette, or so I falsely believe. Store employees would probably respond by calling security removed me from the store. No one would learn from their mistakes.
  2.  Engage in ‘Cart Rage’ (1) – The Urge to Ram Other Shoppers’ Carts. The fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5) published in May 2013 includes a new chapter on Disruptive, Impulse-Control, and Conduct Disorders covering disorders "characterized by problems in emotional and behavioral self-control" (2). It also includes Impulse-Control Disorders Not Otherwise Specified, which encompasses intermittent explosive disorder, pyromania, and kleptomania (2). Five behavioral stages characterize impulsivity: an impulse, growing tension, pleasure on acting, relief from the urge and finally guilt (which may or may not arise (3). While the fantasy of crashing carts and send them scattering is pleasurable, in practice I might be arrested for assault with a metal object and banned from the store or worse.
  1. Breathe, smile at the children, be vigilant for would-be purse snatchers and humbly wait for shoppers to return to their carts resuming shopping. This too is a fantasy as new carts ‘attack’ the area like swarming bees for the samples. Besides now mothers will think I am leering and after their children. My photo would wind up on the wall at Customer Service.
  1. Firmly with a smile say ‘excuse me’ and gently by hand (not by cart), scoot the cart out of the way and pass on by.  The impulse to bash has passed, my tension is released in a healthy way, I have pleasure from acting in a socially acceptable way, relief from the cart bottle neck brings sigh to my lips and I have no guilt over what could have been a cataclysmic event.

PONDER & APPLY - The takeaway here is this: anyone can have impulse control issues that if unattended can evolve into serious mental health concerns. Everyone has ‘thought bubbles’: emotionally based responses to an infraction to oneself or loves ones that are verbalized and released in healthy, socially acceptable ways.  If at any time, the urge becomes aggressive action, it may time to seek professional attention. Don’t let anger and frustration become rage and regret. And, DO move your shopping cart to the side.

(1) Cart Rage is defined as the urge to ram other shopper’s carts – coined by Cinny Roy.

(2) "Highlights of Changes from DSM-IV-TR to DSM-5" (PDF). American Psychiatric Association. 2013. Retrieved October 23, 2013.

Cinny Roy, MA, LPCC-S, is the executive director of Eve Center, an organization of Christian women committed to promoting emotional, spiritual and relational healing for women through peer counseling programs. The Eve Center draws volunteers and clients who are geographically, socio-economically, racially, and denominationally diverse. Through one-to-one sessions, group support and self-help, women move through pain and crisis to hope and recovery.

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