Shopping Carts, Business, and Life, Part I

By Chuck Violand

October 23, 2017

There’s a lot about business that can be learned from shopping carts. That’s right, I’m talking about lowly, supermarket shopping carts. The carts that sometimes don’t make it into the shopping cart corral or surprise us when we turn into a parking spot we thought was unoccupied. The kind that have been clocked at over 35 miles per hour whizzing through the lot, lending new meaning to the term “fast food.”

When filling a shopping cart at the grocery store there are some things, like produce and other perishables, that we plan to use sooner. Other things we put into the cart, like canned goods or household items, we save for later. Sometimes we don’t know when these items will be used; just that keeping the pantry stocked will come in handy down the road.

Businesses are like shopping carts. They’re the vehicles we’ve chosen to collect the things we need to fortify ourselves now and those we’ll use at a future time.

We can learn a lot about ourselves and others by the way our shopping carts are used. When we’re in a hurry or not paying attention, we can become reckless with our shopping carts. We may accidentally run them into display racks, produce bins, or even other carts. Occasionally, we may become impatient when we experience shopping cart gridlock in an aisle.

In much the same way, we can become reckless or impatient with our businesses, causing damage to people and relationships we’ve established.

Shopping cart etiquette teaches us lessons about self-awareness and community. Returning your shopping cart to the corral is a voluntary act. It requires extra effort on our part, but demonstrates our commitment to being a good parking-lot citizen.

Running a business carries a civic responsibility as well as a financial one. We’re responsible to the communities we serve, whether they’re customers, suppliers, or employees.

The important thing to understand about shopping carts when relating them to business, is that it’s not the shopping cart that’s important; it’s the items we put into the shopping carts and the lessons those items can teach us.

A business is intended to collect things: income, customers, experiences, and relationships. It’s up to the person driving the business to decide what they’re ultimately supposed to do with the lessons they’ve learned.

It’s easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day competition to win customers, meet payrolls, and manage staff that we often don’t stop to question what we’re placing into our carts. Or we overlook the purpose of those things. We just keep adding more and more items to our carts, never giving much thought to what they will cost us or how we’re planning to use them. In other words, it’s not about the items in the cart or the experiences in our business, it’s about how they’ll ultimately be used.

In Part II of this series I’ll explain how the items we place into our shopping carts, or the experiences we encounter in business, ultimately play a role in our lives.