Shopping cart

From Academic Kids

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A shopping cart/trolley

A shopping cart (also called a buggy, or a trolley in British English; sometimes referred to as a carriage or shopping carriage in the U.S. region of New England) is a cart supplied by a shop, especially a supermarket, for use by customers inside the shop for transport of merchandise to the check-out counter, and, after paying, often also to the car on the parking lot. Often customers are supplied the convenience of taking a cart in or near the shop and returning it on the car park, and personnel are charged with moving carts from the latter to the former.

Sometimes the customer has to pay a small deposit by inserting a coin, which is returned if and when the customer returns the cart at a designated cart parking point. Some retailers sell "trolley tokens" as an alternative to coins, often for charity. The mechanism can often be unlocked by inserting a key into the slot to dislodge the lock.

This is also done for profit with luggage carts at many airports, where companies like Smarte Carte charge two or more dollars (US) (or equivalent) for rental, and return a small token reward of a quarter (25 ¢) for returning carts to the other end of any dispenser machine.

Most shopping carts are made of metal or plastic and designed to nest within each other in a line to facilitate moving many at one time, and to save on storage space. The carts can come in many sizes, larger ones can accommodate carrying a child. There are also specialized carts designed for two children, and electric scooters with baskets designed for disabled customers. Some stores even have novelty carts that look like a car or van with a large boot (called a "trunk" in the US and Canada) where a child can sit in the seat while shopping. such "Car-Carts" as some people call them in the cart business, find that they are less moveable and unable to stack and compile with other carts making them more of a hassle then they may be worth.

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Cart filled with rubbish

Shopping carts are fitted with four castor wheels, which can point in any direction to allow easy manoeuvring. However, when any one of the wheels jams, the cart becomes extremely difficult to handle. Note that some carts only have swivel castor wheels on the front, while the rear ones are locked. This presumably improves the steering life of the cart, at the expense of maneuverability.

Often there is the problem of theft of shopping carts by pedestrian customers who use them to carry groceries all the way home. One solution is to set up an electric perimeter around the parking lot. Each cart can then be outfitted with a device that disables a wheel when the perimeter is crossed. Sometimes shopping carts are physically prevented from even leaving the shop, but that is mainly a solution if few customers come by car. Retailers report more than 800 million dollars (US) of missing carts in the U.S. alone each year. Once taken from the store, carts frequently end up in hedges or streams. Also, they are often used by urban homeless people to carry their belongings. There have been many stories of people rescuing stolen carts as a hobby. Some shops have phone numbers for people to report stolen carts so they can be recovered.

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Shopping carts of different types

An alternative to the shopping cart is a small handheld shopping basket. A customer can often choose between a cart and a basket, and may prefer a basket if the amount of merchandise is small. Small shops, where carts would be impractical, often supply only baskets.


The first shopping cart was introduced on June 4, 1937, the invention of Sylvan Goldman, owner of the Piggly-Wiggly supermarket chain in Oklahoma City. With the assistance of Fred Young, a mechanic, Goldman constructed the first shopping cart, basing his design on that of a wooden folding chair. They built it with a metal frame and added wheels and wire baskets, and advertised the invention as part of a new “No Basket Carrying Plan.”

The invention did not catch on immediately. Men found them effeminate; women found them suggestive of a baby carriage. "I've pushed my last baby buggy," offended women informed him. After hiring several male and female models to push his new invention around his store and demonstrate their utility, as well as greeters to explain their use, shopping carts became extremely popular and Goldman became a multimillionaire. Goldman continued to make modifications to his original design, and the basket size of the shopping cart increased as stores realized that their customers purchased more as its size increased.

Shopping carts as software

Using the term metaphorically, an e-shopping cart (electronic shopping cart) is software which allows customers shopping on a website to accept product orders for multiple products from the website. This software automatically calculates and totals orders for customers and indicates the total price including post and packing.

Some setup must be done in the HTML code of the website, and the shopping cart software must be installed on the server which hosts the site or on the secure server which accepts sensitive ordering information.

See also: electronic commercede:Einkaufswagen nl:winkelwagen


  • Ted Morgan, On Becoming American (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1978), pp. 245-6.

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