When You Can’t Push It, Push It Real Good

The shopping cart. Symbol of consumerism and engine to every Target Mom Machine. But what about those cumbersome motorized shopping carts near the door of your favorite big box or grocery store?

Who uses them? Injured people? Older adults? Not always. Reasons vary, but I can tell you from firsthand experience that these three assumptions CAN be made about their users:

– None of them are lazy.
– All of them are grateful that the motorized carts are there.
– All of them would rather NOT be using them.

“Amigos” (common brand name) are simultaneously the greatest and worst creations that ever set wheel in a public place.

The good:

Motorized shopping carts give back the ability to provide for your family without having to rely on others. Consider this – if that person was lazy, they’d have made someone else go do it for them. But nope, they made the (probably heroic) effort to get out and spend their limited energy getting groceries. That’s dedication.

Not everyone can afford a personal mobility scooter, nor an effective way to transport it AND get it in/out of their trunk. Plus, it takes up precious space in the vehicle for bringing back the groceries you tried so hard to purchase. It’s a definite courtesy for stores to offer them.

My personal scooter breaks down to 60lbs, which I can just manage to lift (as a former food industry worker slinging 50lb bags..) However, I’m then restricted to buying only as much as I can carry in the store’s shopping basket.

Curtain rods are not intended to be carried via mobility scooter.

The bad:

Everything else! The stigma. The burden. The shame. These carts are FAR from streamlined – it’s as if someone specifically designed them to be as annoying as possible. You probably feel annoyed by them as an able-bodied shopper… imagine what it’d be like to enter a store where everyone around you automatically hates you for being in their way. You don’t feel welcome.

None of the aisles were made for you to navigate effectively (clothing and shoe shopping is the WORST!) And when you get stuck, an alarm designed to release demons from hell itself notifies everyone in a tri-county area that you are backing up. Mortifying.

The ugly:

No one actually wants to use them. How do you fit a week’s worth of food for a family of four into the basket of a scooter cart? Answer: You don’t. The trips are so annoying, that you make it fit enough for two weeks. Wait… yep.

With a classic shopping cart, you grab it and go, neatly stacking goods along the way. No big deal.

There’s a SCIENCE to shopping with a scooter cart!!

Loop your purse handles around the steering column to keep it safe. I use a clip to secure my shopping bags out of the way.

Your fruits and veggies are stacked as vertically as possible and bread goes on top of that. Everything will fall over multiple times while you get your canned goods, but persevere. The meats build up the edge while cereal boxes threaten to fill the entire rest of the basket. But leave room for the milk jugs because they won’t fit anywhere else. The rest of your dairy is puzzle-pieced on top. The frozen foods start to add so much weight to the pile that you choose to forget what’s getting squished down there. Fluffy bags of chips get thrown on top haphazardly at this point, and some may even go on your lap. Don’t pile the basket up too much, or you can’t turn the steering wheel! Drinks have no place to go but between your legs. Hopefully the cart hasn’t started beeping *low battery* at this point because there’s no going back now.

I forgot to mention – look out for shopping carts! You might be riding the indoor equivalent of a 1990 Suburban, but shoppers will whip around the store like they’re going for their personal record time. They’ll treat YOU like a privileged Lamborghini with the unexpected timing of a poorly placed brick wall. I wait for this to happen at the end of EVERY aisle and yield to them 99% of the time.

Check out time. Hopefully you can reach it all. The cashier will give you lots of side-eye as you turn down the extra cart. Hey, if you got it all to fit, THEY should be able to do the same! You just ran a marathon and it’s the least they could do. Another cart (and the required employee escort) is like a blow to my independence –the thing I was trying to maintain this whole time.

Unload your purse first, NOT your groceries. I shouldn’t have to add this, but don’t make yourself a target. If you have your own scooter, have fun unloading the groceries somewhere that’s not in the exact spot the scooter needs to go… OR use magic to suspend the groceries in midair (not on the ground, obviously) while you put the scooter in and pack the food on top. Oh, you didn’t get superpowers in exchange for your compromised physical condition? Better luck next time.

Hope you have enough energy to bring the cart back into the store – that’s assuming that they even let you take it outside! Some stores make shoppers transfer everything into a regular cart at the door. I once met a woman who was outraged on my behalf and wanted to go yell at the manager. I was exhausted and just wanted to go home.

Plug the cart in. I know it’s often hard to find and reach the janky outlets, but do it for your comrades. 

This dance ain’t for everybody

In the age of home delivery, commend those out and about, fighting the hard fight of maintaining independence. It’s a much harder job than they get credit for. I’ve been on both sides of this situation and it’s incredibly humbling.

Be thankful you can push a shopping cart and be a kind human.

Rachel grew up in a small town south of Madison, across the street from her high school sweetheart, Adam (although they didn’t actually meet until one fateful band and choir trip to New Orleans!) College and love took them to Milwaukee for a decade, where Rachel discovered her love for pastry arts. They are now settled back in Madison (much closer to the grandparents!) with two kids. Cassia and Kairos are seven years apart in age but already have an amazing and comical bond. Rachel has faced a confounding path of medical set-backs over the past few years, which have impacted every facet of daily life and plans for the future. With the tremendous support from her family, she strives to use her experience to shed light on the challenges faced by disabled parents.


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