Parking Lot Cart Returns

grocery cartHave you ever been in the grocery store parking lot and watched as a customer parks a grocery cart next to their car, places the grocery bags into their car, and then proceeds to leave the cart a few feet from their car, say in the parking space right next to their vehicle?  Seeing people do this perturbs me a bit.  After putting my bags in my car I always try and place the cart in the cart return, but I’ve noticed at the grocery store I frequent the cart returns seem to be placed for the grocery workers convenience and not the convenience of the customers.  Conspiracy?  I think so, and I’m crying foul.

The store has two entrances and very close to each of these entrances are two cart returns. All the grocery workers have to do is walk across a two lane driveway and collect the carts. There are other cart returns scattered throughout the lot but these are a country mile from either entrance and are therefore hardly ever used. The locations of the cart returns create a “stranded cart” zone in the middle of the parking lot.

shopping cart returns


Many grocers parked in this zone look around and realize that the nearest cart return is in Eritrea and decide to use vegetation “islands” in the parking lot to secure their empty carts.  These “islands” are just random curbed-off spots throughout the parking lot that have a few trees on them to beautify the otherwise barren, desolate expanse that is the grocery store parking lot.  After all, securing a cart to one of these curbed islands is better than leaving an empty cart in the middle of the lot.  It prevents carts from rolling away and hitting parked cars.

“Ugh…where is the cart return?”

I’ve been one of those grocery store shoppers that has unloaded the cart, strapped my child into her car seat, looked up and realized, “I don’t even see a cart return.”  Even still, as far as I can remember I haven’t just abandoned my cart or made use of the vegetation islands in the parking lot to secure my cart.  Out of obligation, I always walk the empty cart to the nearest cart return, which usually is the cart return located 15 paces from the entrance to the store.  I’ve now learned to 1st unload my cart of groceries, then return the cart with my daughter, and finally strap my young one up for the ride home.

Figure 1: my calculations

Montevideo, Uruguay

Montevideo, Uruguay

I’m no brain scientist, but I think cart returns should be in the middle region of the parking lot.  Such a design would be of benefit to both supermarket workers and the shoppers.  Shoppers wouldn’t have to walk to practically the entrance of the store to return a cart and workers wouldn’t have to collect the abandon carts off the “vegetation islands” in the middle of the lot.  Such a change would make roses grow straighter and fuller and, by my calculations (see figure 1), would decrease global warming by 1º F every April 22nd in Montevideo, Uruguay (I know right now your telling yourself, “He didn’t just go there.” and I’m saying, “Oh, yes I DID just go there.”)