04 Mar When Somebody Steals Your Shopping Cart


Shopping in Trader Joe’s yesterday, I left my cart to fetch some bananas. When I returned, my cart was gone. Had I somehow gotten confused? Maybe forgotten where I’d left it? I wandered around, glancing into many other carts. Mine had lots of groceries. But it wasn’t nearby. No, I wasn’t losing my mind, I decided. I knew where I’d left the cart. Somebody had taken it.


If I hadn’t been shopping already for 20 minutes, I would have let it go. But I didn’t want the hassle of re-doing all of my selections. A fast sweep of the store solved the mystery: I found the culprit in the last aisle. She had piled many groceries on top of mine, having assumed that mine were hers. A simple mistake. But also it seemed clear that she would have bought my groceries and shrugged off the mystery items as somebody else’s mistake: Oh, somebody mistook my cart for theirs and dropped these items into mine! And she would never have known that she stole my cart.

When I (nicely) retrieved my cart, she was embarrassed, naturally. But not every cart stealer is. Some months ago, I had many items in my cart at another store. Then I left my cart to look down an adjacent aisle. When I returned, my cart was gone. A thorough search revealed that the cart stealer had dumped my items messily on a nearby shelf. Yeah, wow. My cart had been jacked.


When that happens — and it has happened more than once — I wonder two things: How can you enter a store, or why would you, without a cart? And: how desperate and low-down does somebody have to be to hijack a loaded shopping cart?


Just today, Jill told me a related shopping story: years ago she went to a grocery store to stock up on milk that was on sale. She got the last several quarts. Then she left her cart to get some oranges. When she turned around, she saw another shopper stealing all of her milk and putting it into another cart.


Instead of confronting the thief, Jill waited until the unsavory shopper left her cart unattended, then Jill stole back her on-sale milk.


Is there a lesson here? Probably not, but it’s a reminder: like our scavenging ancestors on the veldt, not all of us can be trusted to behave well and look out for the tribe when hunting and gathering.