Thursday, May 7, 2015

Carry On

A pretty good distance from Wal-Mart.
A random observation:

When I was a child, my grandmothers had small carts that they would take with them to the grocery store. Large enough to carry maybe four paper grocery bags, the carts were useful in trundling purchases back to the house or to the bus stop. And when you weren't using it to carry groceries, it folded up and could be placed out of the way. When I drive by bus tops near stores today and see abandoned store carts there, I wonder what ever happened to those small personal carts. A quick search online reveals that they're still available, but I rarely see anyone ever use one.

To be honest, I almost never saw them outside of urban neighborhoods like those my grandparents lived in. They seem to be non-existent in the suburban cities in which I grew up, and now live and work in.

I don't know how much stolen or damaged shopping carts cost stores to replace. Although I suppose it's more accurate to as how much they cost us to replace - stores likely simply pass the cost along. I can see the logic for an urban shopper to not spend the money - if they can lug their groceries to the bus stop (or their home) in the store's cart, why spend the money to have a cart of one's own? After all, there will be other cart thieves, so it's not like prices would be lower or anything.

But this sort of cost shifting, and the justifications (Rationalizations?) we make for it, seem to be indicative of our society at large. The perception of one's own poverty drives choices that are individually rational and largely invisible, but aggregated over time, become expensive for everyone involved.

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