No, You Aren’t a ‘Savage’ for Being Unable to Return That Cart

No, You Aren’t a ‘Savage’ for Being Unable to Return That Cart

About a year ago, my sister and I went to an arts and crafts store. Upon entering, I instinctively wanted to steer the shopping cart, an offer my able-bodied friends and acquaintances often appreciate.

But before I could get a complete sentence out of my mouth, I remembered that both my sister and I have Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT). As CMT-ers, we actually cherish the opportunity to man the cart during especially long shopping trips. 

For many CMT-ers, shopping carts aren’t bulky burdens that keep us from freely roaming the aisles. Instead, for many of us in the disabled community, carts are a welcome way to get additional support while still blending in. In fact, shopping carts are so beloved in our community that many of us gravitate toward them even if we’re only picking up a handful of things at the store.

So when discussions about a “Shopping Cart Theory” became trendy on social media, this memory came to mind. While I agree with the sentiment of the theory, I can’t get behind its encouragement of prejudice and its narrow-minded assumption that we live in a world where everyone is equally privileged and able-bodied. 

For those unfamiliar with the viral Shopping Cart Theory, it asserts that the act of returning a shopping cart is a good litmus test of a person’s character. The logic being that if someone fulfills a societal expectation that has few rewards or punishments, a person demonstrates that he or she is capable of a certain level of self-governance.

While elements of this “theory” aren’t exactly new, the now-viral post continues that if a person abandons their shopping cart after using it, they are “no better than an animal, an absolute savage who can only be made to do what is right by threatening them with a law and the force that stands behind it.”

Now, although this statement may be a bit hyperbolic for the sake of humor, it illustrates disdain that some disabled people fear they may face when they are unable to return their shopping carts — whether that’s due to fatigue or pain or a multitude of other possible reasons.  

Granted, abandoning carts in the parking lot is not a trivial thing. Both the accessibility of shopping centers and the burden of retail workers are multi-faceted problems. 

Abandoning carts does not make retail jobs easier and it does not give retail workers job security. I understand that many folks who confront others who abandon their shopping carts in the parking lot are generally well-meaning people seeking to help retail workers and other shoppers.

And yet, while I think working to make shopping centers friendlier and more accessible for both the disabled community and retail workers is worth discussing, whether or not we should strive to act with empathy and be slow to judge others is not. It’s in this aspect that the Shopping Cart Theory fails.


Note: Charcot-Marie-Tooth News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Charcot-Marie-Tooth News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Charcot-Marie-Tooth.

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  1. Whitedove says:

    Totally me. Cart in and out of store to the truck keeps me balanced. I push it to front of truck so next car can get in that space. But that’s where it stays

  2. Lynn Wolff says:

    Totally me also. As a 80 year old, I use the cart to maintain balance and walk better. I truly try to return the cart; however, I have observed that the cart return areas very often are not near the handicap parking areas.

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