Seriously, How Many Miles Does a Shopping Cart Log?

English: Jewel-Osco - monster shopping cart truck

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Today is one of those days when the weather inspired me to write.  The opportunity clock woke me at 7:00 a.m. and I looked out upon a white Frankfort. It snowed last night. By 9:00 a.m. I was holding a bucket begging for money at the front door of the Frankfort Jewel Food Store. My Lions Club agreed to beg for money to feed the needy at Christmas. Our local Jewel sponsors a program where they offer the meals with donations from their customers. They have a can atop each checkout counter, but on weekends they ask local groups to help. The Lions is one group they rely on. Since we also distribute food to the needy on the holy day and we buy some of it from Jewel they are comfortable with our helping them in this cause.

So what does this have to do with inspiration to write? Well the temperature was a cool twenty-five degrees this morning when I arrived at my post. I dressed for the occasion and felt comfortable for about an hour, but the cold  finally penetrated my layers and I was dancing to stay warm. To pass the idle time in between shoppers, and there is a lot of idle time between 9-10 on a cold snowy Friday morning. Shoppers are smarter than old Lions who are out to put the touch on them. The smart ones stay in where it is warm. I played drums by tapping my thumbs on the bottom of the plastic collection bucket, and watched the Jewel employee collect shopping carts from the parking lot. I held the door open for him as he  wrestled a long line of telescoped carts into the store.

The engineer in me jumped into action. I asked Zak the cart collector if he ever wondered how many miles on a typical shopping cart. I got the dumbest, longest look I ever received from anyone. I would love to have had an audible readout of Zak’s mind from that moment. Of course, his answer was “I never thought about it.” I don’t think any one alive ever has either. Seriously, how many miles does a typical shopping cart log before it goes to cart-heaven?

My calculated estimate is 15,000 miles. What is your guess? Leave your answer in a comment.

5 Responses

  1. I think that it depends on the store. I’ve seen carts that are still there long after the store is out of business. But then you have to factor in the fact that if they are out of business there weren’t many customers and therefore less cart useage. There you have at least 2 unknowns and no way to solve. So back to guessing – 2,862. Did I win?

  2. I spent 18 months as a cart boy and I think that it all depends on whether the cart winds up as an RV for a homeless person or spends its days actually doing the job it was intended for. If it is a really top-notch Rolls Royce cart, you might get 10,000 miles out of it. If it’s one of the cheap jobs I see around various stores, you’ll be lucky to get 200 miles on it before the wheels start coming off. BTW, in my 18 months (before I got promoted to stock boy) I never once considered the mileage any of my charges would rack up. I used to think a lot about the mileage I was putting on my shoes and the tips I might get!

    • baileyoski: I’m glad you worked your way up the ladder quickly. It is sad to see gray haired men collecting the carts at Jewel. My estimate was based on a ten year life. I didn’t factor in usage wear like parking lot crashes, stacking jams, overloads, etc. I merely looked at rolling miles around the aisles and out into the lot. Your analysis was much more complete, I defer to your expertise.

  3. Grumpa, I would estimate approx. 3,000 to 4,000 miles before they are either worn out or stolen. There are many that end up in vacant lots or someones garage or back yard.

    • Chuck: Again, you and I are close to the same thinking. My assumption was that a cart lasts ten years. If I scale back to a three year life the miles are dead on with your estimate.

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