Merriam-Webster defines a psychopath as “a mentally unstable person.” “Especially,” the online dictionary elaborates, “a person having an egocentric and antisocial personality marked by a lack of remorse for one’s actions, an absence of empathy for others, and often criminal tendencies.”
Here’s a shorter definition for your lexicon: A psychopath is someone who doesn’t take the time to return their shopping cart.
There is a multitude of reasons that someone, when push comes to shove, refuses to wheel their basket all the way back to its enclosure. Maybe their hands are full. Maybe they are short on time. Maybe the weather is bad. Maybe the trek is too far (an excuse, one could argue, that is easily remedied by parking closer to a cart return or the store itself). Maybe the buggy needs a tune-up and won’t survive the journey to its pen three spots over.
Or maybe cart abandoners are egocentric jerks — like this Patrick Mahomes fan — who think they are too good to do their due diligence at Walmart. He does appear “mentally unstable,” and his instinct to mow over a passerby shows his “criminal tendencies.”
Regardless of the reasons, failing or refusing to put away a shopping buggy is an atrocious act only forgivable by God himself.
Squeaky wheel, rusted joints, dirty handle, or broken child safety strap be darned! All carts were designed to be parked. They collapse into each other, form a sturdy line, and can be easily navigated by motorized cart retrievers. By refusing a cart its safe return to its home, shoppers further defile the inconvenient human experience of loading up the kids, driving to the store, spending money on inflated groceries, bagging and loading them up, and putting those goods away.
It is estimated that deserting baskets results in the theft of more than 2 million carts a year. That doesn’t just take a toll on shoppers physically if they are forced to find a new way to carry groceries, it can also make a dent in their wallets.
Yet, not even monetary incentives, such as Aldi’s 25-cent refundable fee for the proper use and return of a cart, are able to fully remedy the problem — because refusing to return a cart to its corral isn’t just a product of laziness. It’s a symptom of a society and culture that suffers from a widespread lack of personal responsibility and morality. Indeed, cart returning is not just good etiquette. It’s a basic acceptance of the norms and standards that govern our society.
Putting the cart back into its metal cage doesn’t just help the workers. It keeps the parking lot free of debris and ensures that the next person who needs a tool to tote their canned goods and frozen pizzas around the store has a rolling option.
I don’t care how someone chooses to return the basket so long as they actually do it. One may care to park the cart in the return, pass it off to another customer, or march it all the way to the cart garage at the front of the store. Bonus points if you push the basket all the way to the front of the makeshift paddock and ensure it isn’t crooked in its spot. Regardless of the method, normal, moral human beings understand that putting the buggy back is objectively the right thing to do.
Those who do it reap the benefits of selflessness, helping others, and getting in a few more steps. They may not comprehend it in the moment, but their act of returning the cart is a litmus test for what they believe about personal responsibility. It shows the people around them that they care about personal development, hard work, and the health of society.
Those who fail to return the cart, especially repeatedly, deprive our communities of the acts of goodness that make the world go ‘round. Psychopaths, the lot of them.