The Shopping Cart Economy

Shopping Cart 2.jpgSomewhere in LA, thereís an underground demand for shopping carts. I know this because Iíve seen the demand in action. Iíve seen the shopping cart economy function. And in my very own cul-de-sac. Two days ago, a shopping cart appeared on the curb outside my house.

I live at the end of a cul-de-sac in Echo Park. Itís as reasonable a place to ditch your shopping cart as any, I suppose, so the appearance of the cart wasnít what surprised me. What surprised me was its life after it arrived.

First, I moved it. Who wants a house with a shopping cart parked in front of it? Against the cautions of a friend that it was ìcovered in the hivî, I pushed it (granted with only two fingers) further away from my house towards the cul-de-sacís dead-end. ìAt least now it doesnít look like it belongs to meî, I thought. Iíd have gotten rid of it through the proper channels, but who knows what the proper channels are? Besides, I figured it would be interesting to observe.

I was right.

The cart sat next to the drainage opening at the end of my cul-de-sac for one whole day and two nights. It sat there, unmolested. Until today.

Today, I crawled out of my hole of a back office currently housing me and every fan I own (the kind that blow airÖI donít own any of the other kind). Iíd been working with the blinds drawn and the doors closed just trying to get the temperature below 79 degrees. But since I keep my laptop disconnected from the Internet (to avoid distractions), I had to go into my front office to send an email. While there, I looked out my window at the shopping cart at the end of the cul-de-sac. There I saw two girls of high school age approach the cart. At first I thought they were going to take it away, but then I realized they were going to use it as a backdrop for their photo shoot. More accurately, they were going to get in it and use it as the entire concept of the shoot.

Incapable of avoiding absurd human interaction, I yelled from my obscured window. ìHey! Get out of my shopping cart!î The expression on the girlsí faces could best be described as confused. The one in the cart made a move to get out (very respective of property these youngsters). Worried that Iíd ruined their photo shoot, I quickly followed up with ìIím just kidding.î But by then, theyíd become quite self-conscious and made to leave. As they headed towards the pedestrian overpass over the 101, I yelled, ìTake that thing with you!î They stopped, still more confused, just now beginning to figure out what was going on. ìTake it across the bridge and leave it on the other side, will you?î The girls had a quick private conversation and yelled back, ìWeíll be back!î ìUh-oh,î I thought, ìshades of Me and You and Everyone We Know here.î I stopped talking, the girls left, and I went back to sending my email.

Maybe an hour went by. Iíd returned to my shade room and come back out after a good solid forty minutes of work. Back on the Internet, I looked out the window and noticed an older Latino couple assessing the shopping cart. The woman moved it back and forth, testing its action, the trueness of its alignment. I looked away for a second and when I looked back, it was gone. They had taken the shopping cart.

ìTo what end?î I wondered. Obviously not to return it to the store from which it was originally taken. It didnít have the necessary identifiable marks to do that. This couple had some other use for a shopping cart. And what better shopping cart than one left abandoned at the end of a dead-end cul-de-sac in Echo Park?

So now the shopping cart is gone. And Iím glad. After all, it was an unsightly thing that I wanted to get as far away from my house as possible. The thing is, now that itís gone, I wonder what sort of adventures itís on. While Iím here in the same room typing meaningless gibberish that no one will read (not this postÖthe stuff I was working on in the back room), my shopping cart is out about town, transporting food or drugs, maybe aluminum cans, babies, or Jehovahís Witness literature. Whatever itís doing, Iím sure itís a lot better than hanging out for three days at the end of my cul-de-sac. Nevermind that I do that every day.

Note: this post is more enjoyable if you click on the link to Me and You and then read the rest as set to the music from the website. Thanks Miranda! (like I know her).

13 thoughts on “The Shopping Cart Economy”

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who does weird things with shopping carts.

    There’s an evil empire WalMart about 1/2 mile up the road from my condo complex. About a month ago, someone left a cart from WalMart in our parking lot. Being the responsible home owner I am, I moved the cart to our trash area, and called up WalMart.

    “Oh, yeah, we’ll come and get that right away.”

    I waited a couple of days, and no one showed up. So, I drove over to the store, found a manager. She couldn’t care less. She asked where it was, and half paid attention when I told her. I even drew her a map. I was assured that someone would be ‘right over’.

    Two days later, still no one shows up. So, I call again. After waiting on hold about 5 minutes, someone finally gets on the line, and says, ‘oh, okay, we’ll come get it.’

    So, now a week has gone by, and no one has claimed the cart. I live on an expressway (think 65 MPH with stoplights every mile). So, I rolled the cart out to the center divider, and planted it there.

    And there it sat. It sat there for three weeks. It finally disappeared just a few days ago. I don’t know who took it. I don’t think it was WalMart. Because I’ve seen a few other WalMart shopping carts littered about in a mile radius from the store, that have been there longer than mine was.

    I hope my cart is on an equally good adventure.

  2. Oh man! I hate shopping carts out of their natural habitat! Someone left one in front of my house one day… I had visitors over and it felt so damn…. ghetto. I live in “Just-Barely”Granada Hills so I have enough issues with ghettoness as it is.

    I couldn’t very well move it away from my house and plop it down in front of a neighbor’s house (they hate us for reasons I won’t delve into here. Just know that we are “that” house with “those” people on my street). I held my head up high, grabbed the handle bar, and pushed the sucker right under the 118 overpass bridge. Of course, this was all done at 2:00 in the morning. The next day it was gone… I can only assume it was the plaything of some high school kids. I used to go for rides in shopping carts in high school… *sigh* fun times.

  3. They don’t pay anyone at WalMart nearly well enough to make them go get errant shopping carts.

  4. For me, there’s never one around when I need it, because I live on the top floor of my apartment.

  5. I hate to burst your bubble, but most stores contract with services to pick up their stray carts. Watch for the Mexican guys in battered Toyota pick-ups.

  6. I used to live in an apartment complex where several shopping carts had taken up permanent residence. Let me tell you, they were VERY handy when I had to move!

  7. Once I was at the airport and about to get on a flight when I discovered that our travel agent at work never BOOKED my ticket. It was Christmas Eve and I wasn’t getting out of town without paying $2000.00. I called my boyfriend and asked him to come back and get me because I was stranded at the airport. He told me he had “a lot to do” and did I really need him to come back? Furious I told him never mind that I’d take the subway. 2 hours later, I arrived at the Lincoln Heights station and realized that I still had a long ass way to walk UPHILL to get home. My bag was overweight and I couldn’t see dragging it home. Frustrated, I looked around and found a shopping cart. (Anyone who knows this metro stop knows that it is about 50 yards from the main entrance to the homeless metropolis under the bridge near Avenue 26 and Figueroa and home to a shopping cart parking lot)I threw my carry-on and my overweight 30″ roller in and started the uphill climb. Talk about ghetto…on the way home, I passed a former employer who stared out the window at me like I was on crack, a couple of neighbors and to top it all off, as I was rounding the corner, the evil (now ex) boyfriend leisurely driving off to the gym. That cart sat in front of my house for less than 20 minutes before some guy came and used it to start collecting cans that he’d raided out of all of our recycling bins. Currently, there is a cart and a van seat in front of my house. They’ve been there close to a week.

  8. – I yelled from my obscured window. ìHey! Get out of my shopping cart!î –

    Thanks for the belly laugh!!

  9. I see them used every day out here in Venice/WL.A. as substitutes for other means of child transportation – usually Central American mothers with a child or two, walking to or from what passes for bus service on Venice.

    They’re also, obviously, IMMENSELY popular with the housing-challenged.

    It still took one left on the corner of my Mar Vista street a whole week to get picked up – and I seriously doubt it ever found its way back to whatever store it came from.

  10. Two minutes of Google searching got me to:

    California Shopping Cart Retrieval Corporation

    and their 24-hour toll-free number, 800-252-4613


  11. here is the deal: in neighborhoods like echo park, a lot of people do not own cars. thus they have to walk home with the grocery cart in order to bring food home.

    as a result: the cart stays outside the destination house until one of the contracting services comes to pick it up(they get paid per cart retrieved).

    maybe it does look “ghetto”(that’s the price for low rent in a strategic location), but this should not be surprising at all. it’s pretty common knowledge and testament to the fact that echo park is not yet completely gentrified.

    sure some aesthetic sensibilities are offended but it does make things easier for the person bringing home food for their family.

  12. I’ve seen many shopping carts used by folks who go looking for recyclable bottles and cans in dumpsters. Also, I’ve seen others used to hold huge pots of tamales, corn, and other Mexican goodies. I find the practice pretty resourceful. Who knows, maybe that Latino couple was going to use it to start selling elotes or tamales on the street.

  13. Hey, Matt — I know where your cart is! I found this AP photo from 07/21/05 (on the daily photos website for the Seattle Post Intelligencer, of all places) with the caption: “Victor Ruiz, 28, pours water over his head from a shopping cart filled with cold water as he tries to keep cool with his 16-month-old son Victor under the sun in downtown Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes” — check it out!

    For its next adventure, maybe your cart can hook up with the Travelocity Roaming Gnome and start a new travel blog?

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