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The Science of People Not Returning Their Shopping Carts

You can Science on Anything, really. Here’s a discussion of “What is the moral reasoning of people not returning their shopping carts?”:

I always return my shopping cart because I don’t want to think of myself as lazy or inconsiderate.


I don’t return my carts on principle. Although I also don’t block parking spaces – i put them on islands and curbs. My assumption is that if the cart wrangler could get a better job, he would. So I’m doing my part to keep him gainfully employed.

The question generated so many comments that the original site had to turn off comments.

Published inScience


  1. Stock photo in the article shows carts with coin deposit. Are these so uncommon in the US? I suppose so, as they usually say they have no coins at hand. Maybe they’re buying the plastic stand-ins in bulk for cheap, but I doubt it.

    I do remember we had more stray carts in Munich in the 80s (and 90s?) before the coin deposits, and I assume that’s why those became the norm, although I’m either remembering it wrongly or it was not a huge problem where I lived.

    • Rudolf Polzer

      Around here (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA), only Aldi has carts with coin deposit (takes $0.25 then – the largest common US coin – and making the deposit higher like EUR 1 or even 2 is therefore unrealistic). Everyone else has “free” carts, often equipped with an anti theft brake.

      Guess why not returning carts is a problem then…

  2. Matt McIrvin

    I’ve never seen carts with coin deposit. When I was growing up in suburban Virginia in the 1970s, there were usually barriers preventing people from taking carts out into the parking lot at all–you could only take them to a loading zone at the curb, and an employee would help you load your groceries into the car there.

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