The Shopping Cart Mystery

Written May 8. 2000, at 22:39 GMT.

There's a very entertaining (as well as eye-opening) article called Attack of the Giant Shopping Carts in Slate Magazine's Everyday Economics section.

The article discusses a number of theories on why American shopping carts have steadily grown bigger over the last decades. One of those social phenomenons for which there is no official explanation.

The article ends by listing the best theories sent in by readers

What I feel was the best answer was sent in by a person called Linda. It is as follows:

Having shopped for groceries for about 40 years, I can tell you one possible reason why grocery stores have switched to larger carts. They want to keep me shopping as long as possible. When I shop, I tend to stop when the cart gets full. So -- the larger the cart, the greater the chance I'll buy several items I'd have passed up if I had a smaller, full cart. And those extra items tend to be discretionary items, which usually cost more and, I assume, have a higher profit margin.

It's not a really big mystery -- it's just that someone finally started paying attention to how people actually shop (probably when men started having to do some of it -- ever see how awkward a big man looks pushing one of those tiny old-fashioned carts?).

And by the way, you'll find Occam's Razor on aisle 6B.

Seems like a very intelligent answer to me...


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