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Grocery cart etiquette

Thoroughly Modern Manners – Ask Mrs. Abramovitz

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Mrs. Abramovitz,

Would you please talk to us about grocery cart etiquette?
– L.Z.

I am so glad you asked! Let’s start with: stay to your right, tuck out of the way, and always return your cart.

Grocery store maneuvering is much the same as driving. So, stay to the right. Stay all the way to the right. Have you noticed how narrow the aisles have gotten? Keep your hands tucked in or you could lose a knuckle. Turning corners and approaching major thoroughfares requires the same kind of diligence as driving. When you’ve stopped, make sure your cart is out of the way and not impeding other shoppers.

And of course, here’s my favorite part, ALWAYS RETURN YOUR CART! I’ve heard from several readers who are as disappointed as I am in the current state of affairs with grocery carts being left here and there. Oh, I know Dear Reader, there are a million excuses for leaving your cart on the grassy median, or among the parked cars or to my horror, in the space itself. But this very act says more about who you are and that is – it is all about you. I know Dear Reader, you are just plain out of gas and your child is screaming at Mach 10, and you think, “Can’t I leave this cart here just this once?” But you still return the cart, because this is a chance for that child to see you do the right thing, the disciplined thing.

Let’s just take this one step further. If you see someone emptying their cart and you are walking into the store, go ahead and offer to return it for them. You’ll be so glad you did. If you see a cart in the wrong place, take a minute to go ahead and take it in with you. These are acts of unselfish people.

Grocery stores can be the hub of all kinds of community engagement. Let’s be kind and gentle with one another. Smile and say hello and go ahead and pump your fist in the air on that walk back to your car. After you’ve returned your grocery cart.

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