Shopping Carts

June 27, 2007

I am reading Steven Landsburg’s book More Sex is Safer Sex. There is a section on the growth of the shopping cart. You can read the original Slate magazine article online.

For the past three decades, only one economic variable has exhibited strong steady growth year in and year out. I refer, of course, to the size of shopping carts. According to the grocery store managers I just spoke to, today’s average cart is almost three times as large as its 1975 counterpart. That’s remarkable because by 1975 the growth spurt had already been underway and apparent to economists for several years.

Although I can’t conjure a citation from NEXIS or the Web, Ralph Nader is said to be one of the first to notice the growing-shopping-cart phenomenon. He is said to have offered it as a prime example of how consumers are manipulated by unscrupulous capitalists: Bigger carts were designed to shame consumers into bigger purchases.

I hate to disagree with “grocery store managers” but three times as large as 1975? Come on. Landsburg goes on to describe possible solutions to this puzzle. Here is my solution… shopping carts did not grow much if at all. Here is a picture from the Unarco Cart History page.

The year of the photo is not labeled but I think it is earlier than 1975. Three times the size? I’d say that is highly unlikely.  Here is a history of the shopping cart if you are interested.

Who gave Ralph Nader the Red Pill option to discover the truth about The Matrix anyway? You are THE ONE Nader.

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2 Responses to “Shopping Carts”

  1. das L Says:

    i don’t see it as that impossibLe, that the cart grew cLose to 3 times its size. as we’re taLking voLume, you’d get away with making it just a bit higher, and a bit Longer, and then doubLing its width. if you Look at the front wheeLs in the oLd picture, they do seem reaLLy cLose together…

  2. RAD Says:

    I think the handle height is limited by ergonomics, the width by average door widths, and the length by reasonable maneouverability. The front does look more tapered than modern carts so I can see tweaks here and there but with the nesting carts an increase in size requires that the grocer replace all of their carts at the same time. I’m skeptical on the tripling and moreso on continuous growth which is the main point of Landsburg’s article.

    I agree, not impossibLe (but unlikely).


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