Friday, May 04, 2012

Gro Carting

Conventional wisdom says the melting pot is working--we’re becoming homogenized Americans. 

We’ve gone through a half-century of population mobility, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion.  Few stayed were they were born.  The young went off to pursue advanced education, promising jobs, or both. The old sold the family home and moved to enjoy final years in kinder climates and with other oldsters in communities built just for them. 

In the process, we’ve been losing those charming regional accents along with differences in manners and traditions.  We increasingly find the same big-box stores in every state.  The Golden Arches loom everywhere, and their proprietors go to great lengths to fry the stuff the same way at every location.

Knowing all this, we were surprised to spot a cultural difference the first time we made an extended visit to southwestern Michigan in 2006.  It was no fluke.  We’ve verified it hundreds of times since we moved here from Utah three years ago.

People in southwestern Michigan put shopping carts in the racks after they unload the groceries. Empty carts are rarely seen scattered about in parking lots.

In Utah, carts are left all over the place, and some abandoned ones are spotted blocks and even miles away from the store. 

Place in rack, please.
The signs imploring customers to put the empty carts in the racks are the same. Literacy rates are equal. The weather is similar, and thus not a factor.  We’d even give Utah an edge in that department.  The stores and lots are virtually identical.  So why do almost all the people here pay attention to the cart-return signs, while so many in Utah do not?

We’ve pondered the cart corral question at length without developing a glimmer of a theory for the cause.  Any ideas out there?

We do know that if you’re a parking lot neatnik, southwestern Michigan is the place for you.  You may get the bonus of seeing a gray haired geezer wearing a Packers shirt launch his empty cart at the rack and raise his hands to signify three points whenever his cart splits the uprights. It causes a lot of laughs in Michigan parking lots.  Bet you won’t see that elsewhere in the U.S.A.


Kay Dennison said...

I'm one of those people who always puts her cart away. And most people do in my part in Ohio -- if the store proprietor provides a "cart corral".

Big John said...

You may "not see it elsewhere in the USA", but you would see it here in the UK .

In many European countries it is common to find carts where you have to push a coin into a slot in the handle to enable you to release them from their parking bay. This coin is returned when you return the cart to it's bay and lock it in place.

schmidleysscribblins, said...

Some of those Michiganers are down here pushing carts into racks. I live in a tidy county. Dianne

joared said...

Most people put carts in their rack area in our Calif. community but a small number do not. Occasionally, I've seen a few people push them home with their groceries. I suppose they return them the next time they shop, perhaps to fill them again. I've seen a few filled to over-flowing that have been commandeered by homeless people.

June Calender said...

My theory is basically "monkey see, monkey do." Here on Cape Cod the carts are mostly corraled. If I happen to park near a stray cart, I take it to the corral. A story employee sent out to take he carts in recently asked me why I was pushing a stray cart to the store. I said, "I'm try to see if I want to apply for your job."

Dick Klade said...

That's a good line, June. I'll add it to my supermarket parking lot repertoire, which up to now has only included field goal attempts.

Sightings said...

Here in NY we have people (usually old guys) whose job it is to go gather up the carts in the parking lot. So I'm always torn over the issue -- be a good citizen and return the cart; or leave it in the parking lot and help the guy keep his job.

In Florida they have guys who wheel your cart out to the car for you. Then they take it back. I can't believe it's a great job, but it does help the old and infirm.