Social Accountability

Should we put shopping carts back?

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After loading my car with groceries I placed the shopping cart in an “unofficial” storage area, AKA a spot right in front of my car, which was parked next to a huge Pickup Truck. As I was about to start the car, the guy inside the truck waved, prompting me to lower my window. I did so hesitantly. Very politely he said,

I’ll take that cart if you’re done with it.

Thinking he was serious, I replied,

Yup, it’s all yours.

To which he replied,

Okay, because there is a place over there that people normally put them in.

I replied by driving off in anger.

Why did this make me so angry? The guy was actually really kind about it. He was holding me socially accountable for something we take for granted all the time. It’s easier to leave grocery carts where ever it is convenient. Yet, it made me angry that I was called out on something that practically everyone does.

Why did it bother me? Was it my fault, should I be upset or respectful that he held me accountable?

After mulling over these thoughts though, I realized that just because everyone does something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. I was just being lazy. I would rather save the extra thirty seconds than put back a shopping cart in the correct spot. That’s what the employees are for, right?

Yes and no.

I belong to the community. Grocery stores are community gatherings, especially in a small town. Something as simple as putting the cart back is a sign of respect for your community. This guy knew it. Hell, he may have been a clerk at one point who had to run and gather the carts in rain, sleet, or snow. Maybe he was empathizing with the employees.

Regardless of the reason, I was upset because I was held accountable. This stranger made me think about my actions, removing an unconscious act into my subconscious. How often do we hold others socially accountable? It’s a very good sign of strong leadership.

Or it’s trivial annoyance, but I’ll let you decide.

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