Shopping Cart Theory Says: If You Don’t Return Your Cart, You’re A Bad Person

Twitter user @antichristjared has lit a fuse under everyone on social media by bringing up a theory that’s been circulating on various forums for ages. The Shopping Cart Theory is used as a way to determine whether or not people are capable of doing good without any motivation to do so.

Though in this case, doing good is defined as doing a basic chore. I don’t know if I think those are the same thing, but let’s follow Jared and his followers down the rabbit hole. He screenshot an illustration of the theory and an anonymous post about it.

“I can’t f—king stop thinking about the shopping cart theory,” he captioned them both.

shopping cart theory

The post reads:

The shopping cart is ultimate litmus test for whether a person is capable of self-governing.

To return the shopping cart is an easy, convenient task and one which we all recognize as the correct, appropriate thing to do. To return the shopping cart is objectively right.

There are no situations other than dire emergencies in which a person is not able to return their care. Simultaneously, it is not illegal to abandon your shopping cart. Therefore the shopping cart presents itself as the apex example of whether a person will do what is right without being forced to do it.

No one will punish you for not returning the shopping cart, no one will find you or kill you for not returning the shopping cart. You must return the shopping cart out of the goodness of your own heart. You must return the shopping cart because it is the right thing to do. Because it is correct.

shopping cart theory

It continues, “A person who is unable to do this is 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. The Shopping Cart determines whether a person is a good or bad member of society.”

Okay, a lot of people have opinions on this, probably reflecting their perception of themselves and their perception of civic duty in regards to carts. I’ll be honest and say that in a big lot, when I’m headed to a car, I’ll put the cart back or in one of those corrals. However, when I’m at Trader Joe’s, getting into a Lyft, I just shove it in the general direction of the many people who are putting them back, because it’s their job and there’s a line behind my car. So, circumstances do dictate behavior. Or I’m an a**hole when not being one is inconvenient. Either way, I am at peace.

Either way, the pushback was intense:

Though many agreed:

So, are you good or evil according to the Shopping Cart Theory? And which way do you put the toilet paper on the roll?

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