My local grocer has a problem.  All of us who shop there are aware of it, and even compensate for it.  But it doesn’t seem that they even realize it.

Ours is a pretty urban location in the midst of a university neighborhood.  Sure, there are a few families with their 2.3 children each, but most of the households either have no-kids or are comprised of college kids themselves.  Few people here ever shop big.  Even if we only go shopping once a week, we’re not buying a ton of groceries most times we go there.

So, we appreciate those half-sized grocery carts.  Growing up, whenever I went shopping with Mom, we always used those regular-sized buggies.  When we were smaller, we’d even want to ride inside them.  These days, they make them with cutesy faux-cars attached to the front so kids can play like they’re driving around the store while Mom or Dad gets the work done.  But I can’t remember the last time I needed that much space, and I appreciate the simplicity (and appropriate size) of those smaller ones.

The grocery store in our neighborhood seems to have about four of them.  And all of us who shop there are always wrangling for them amongst each other.

We’ve even figured it out:  Not because they don’t have employees that will go out into the parking lot to retrieve them (it’s a college neighborhood, remember, so they have lots of help), but because there are so few of the smaller carts, I’ll often scour the parking lot before I even enter the store.  They’re never inside where all the (other, huge) carts are kept.  So, I look at the caddies out there in the lot where people leave them after they’ve unloaded.

Of course, often times, with so few items, we can just lift the bags out of them and leave the carts behind as we’re exiting the store.  As an arriving shopper comes in the doors at the same time, it’s usually a knowing look and nod to each other, “ah, mind if I take that now that you’re done?”

But either way, there we all are…the Customers…taking care of ourselves and each other.

The store?

I don’t know.  They don’t seem to realize that they have such a shortness of what it is we all use.

They have hundreds of carts sitting idly at the front of the store.  I’ve never seen that space empty…teeming with the full-sized carts.  And from time to time there’s been an abandoned small one (someone leaving when someone else was not coming in at the same time) just kind of floating around, but not for long.

What a waste.  Not only did they spend money on those big carts (I’ve been to suburban grocery stores in the metro area and often find not enough of the big ones anywhere to be seen), but the smaller ones probably cost less in the first place!

Not only that waste, but what about their Customers?

We don’t want to push around that obnoxiously huge cart when all we need is that small one.  Talk about a lose-lose decision (probably made at some corporate office that’s unaware of the neighborhood).

Recently I had to use one of those huge ones because the four or five small carts they have were already being used by current shoppers.  A package of berries that I had in that top part of it—the spot where you’d usually put your little kid in, facing you—kind of flipped out of my hand as I was pulling it out.  I’m a klutz.  Berries all over the floor as they tumbled out and into the larger (completely empty…I’d put all my groceries in that little spot on top) lower, main part of the cart and popped open, through the wire, and onto the floor.  I was apologetic as the very quick employee got a broom and swept it up right away before I could even scoop more than a few of them up in my bare hands.

As I was thinking of this, it’s altogether possible I could have made the mess nonetheless, regardless of the size of the cart.  But maybe not.  I attributed it to the dynamics and engineering of the cart, my using just that small space up top.  I can be pretty sure that, had they had those smaller carts, everything would have fit perfectly in it (instead of, ironically, being crammed into that top portion of the bigger cart I had to use).  But I guess that’s not what management had in mind.

As I was leaving, a lady who was checking out at the same time as I was and had been able to grab one of the smaller carts passed it off to a guy who was entering.  Again, that congenial, shared moment of Customers.

Funny, we’ve figured it out.  Why hasn’t our grocer?