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Grocery Cart Giving | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

Grocery Cart Giving

Grocery cartsA few years ago, when Aldi’s opened in Evansville, I was having a very bad day one day. As I drove into their parking lot, I prayed for God to send me a sign – any kind of sign – that things would be okay.

Then I went to get my shopping cart. In an effort to curb costs, Aldi’s shoppers pay a quarter for a grocery cart. After they finish shopping and load their groceries into their car, they return the cart to get back their quarters. The carts are kept in shelter, don’t crowd the parking lot, and save the store money in labor and replacement.

That day, a lady handed me a cart she had just used and refused to take my quarter. “Pay it forward,” she told me.

She made my day and filled me with hope.

Since that day, I’ve resolved to pay it forward whenever I shop at Aldi’s.

It seems other people have had the same idea. Yesterday, when I walked into Aldi’s, I saw four different people pay it forward. A lady gave me my cart. Everyone who shared a cart had a special glow – that glow of giving something to a complete stranger. What struck me the most was this was the Saturday before Thanksgiving. That’s a grocery shopping nightmare day of packed aisles, long checkout lanes, and more.

Yes, I paid it forward.

An interesting take-away from this is that with something as trivial as returning a grocery cart, Aldi’s raised the bar in a simple way – if you don’t put your cart back, you lose a quarter. It uses a carrot, not a stick. Their parking lot never has extra carts in it.

They reminded people of that kindergarten lesson: put things back where you found them. An unintended consequence of their raising the bar for customer behavior, I think, is that it has reminded every-day shoppers to take care of themselves and the things they use. And that has inspired many people to reach a little higher – to help strangers.

This year, I am thankful for the continued generosity of the shoppers I saw yesterday morning.

Something as simple as sharing a grocery cart and saving a stranger a quarter can change your day and the stranger’s.


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