Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | February 1, 2015

In The Market for Growth

Chazal tell us that when Klal Yisrael is doing the will of HaShem, there work will be done by others. I don’t know whether I’m doing the will of HaShem, but my job was definitely made easier by whoever makes up all these special holidays.

According to the United States Census Bureau and Chase’s Calendar of Events, which its publisher McGraw-Hill says is, “the most comprehensive and authoritative reference available on special events, worldwide holidays and festivals, civic observances, historic anniversaries, famous birthdays and much more,” February is Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month.

Can you believe it? A whole month dedicated to one of the most common problems in our society. Some in the Jewish community like to call it the “Cart Crisis,” but it’s been going on for so long hardly anybody even thinks about it anymore.

Cart Month was the idea of Anthony Dinolfo, a grocery store owner whose carts had turned up just about everywhere imaginable. As he watched the 1969 historic event of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, he had amusing thought. “I said I wouldn’t be surprised if he found a shopping cart in one of the craters,” Dinolfo told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Now, most of the places you hear about this festival will talk about the financial losses to the stores (each cart can run $100 or more) or the impact on the environment (for example at treehugger.com – and no, I’m not making up that name.)

There are even special rules about how to celebrate this holiday. Here’s what I found:Supermarket

How to celebrate Return Your Carts to the Supermarket month

  1. Return your cart to a designated “cart rack” or aisle. These can be found in various places throughout the parking lot or nearby the store’s entrance.
  2. Leave your cart near the entrance and carry grocery bags to your vehicle by hand. It’ll be courteous to another customer by exchanging hands on the cart.
  3. Take a cart that is near your vehicle to shop with instead of taking one by the entrance. This method helps out the courtesy clerks and prevents the homeless from capturing a cart.
  4. Ask the cashier or bagger to double the bags. If you have to walk somewhere, don’t use a cart to assist you in carrying things.
  5. Have a bagger escort the cart to the vehicle to help you unload groceries. He or she then will wheel carts back to a designated area.

Some Tips

  • If you are shopping light, take a basket instead.
  • Most places now currently have devices installed on the wheels, so that the carts lock up when going past a marked line.

Warnings

  • Anyone caught tampering or stealing shopping carts may deal with the police.

What I see from here is that they’re more worried about runaway carts disappearing from the stores than what I am concerned about. You see, I find the problem to be that the carts very much stay in the parking lot, just strewn across it and blocking parking spaces from being used by the next customer.

Of course, we have good excuses, because we are in a hurry, but how many times have you come home to find that had you been there fifteen seconds earlier (the approximate time it takes to put the cart in the right place) you would have won a million dollars? OK, what if it was fifteen minutes? Probably not such a biggie either.

Often, we figure that we’re in a hurry so every second counts. If we stopped and thought about it, we’d realize that the extra few seconds won’t make much difference to us, but it will to someone else.

For example, you’re leaving the grocery store where you spent a leisurely hour shopping, shmoozing, calling your house to find out what else you were supposed to pick up. Now, you come outside, unpack your groceries into your car, stop to talk to a friend who hasn’t yet gone in, and now you suddenly don’t have the extra few moments it takes to bring the cart to the store. No problem! Leave it in the handicapped parking space. That person with the wheelchair-accessible van won’t mind parking on the other side of the lot. “If they knew how many things I had to do they’d understand.”

Now that person comes and can’t park there. As it just snowed, there are very few spots that can accommodate their van so they end up driving around for five minutes, (blessing you every inch of the way) and all because you couldn’t be bothered.

OK, so you’re more courteous and leave the handicapped space alone. Instead, you carefully angle the cart at the front corner of your spot. That smart move saves you a precious 1.56 seconds, except that you have to go back and readjust it when it starts to roll. Otherwise, it would have been a smart move.

Now, your sister-in-law comes to shop and, seeing a spot open from afar, zooms in, only to screech to a halt halfway in when she sees the cart previously obscured from vision. Real nice.

The best I saw was when someone couldn’t be bothered to bring their cart to the store so they lamely shoved it towards the front door and drove off. Except that when they backed up, they let out a loud expletive because they slammed into a cart some idiot had left halfway between the parking spots and the door. Oh yeah… that was them.

I was in Florida recently and I was about to pull into a spot when I saw there was a cart in it. I moved down a few spaces, then on my way to the store, went and got the cart from the space. A woman who saw me asked if I needed it and I said, “I was just moving it so somebody could park there.” She was amazed. “That’s so nice!”

As I had a yarmulka, which probably stands out quite a bit in South Florida, I know I made a Kiddush HaShem. Had I been in Monsey, where most of the people at the supermarkets I go to are Jewish, I could have gotten even more mitzvos for thinking about others and fulfilling V’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha.

So, this February, when you go shopping, grab a cart from the lot and bring it in to the store with you. Leave your cart at the front instead of making people run a slalom course in the lot, and actively think of the people you’re helping and how you’re improving your own middos.

Take the extra few seconds to turn indifference into a cause for celebration.

To buy the book The Observant Jew, from which this was excerpted, visit http://www.TheObservantJew.com/book

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