Training Your Future Grown-Up—The Grocery Cart Edition

The beauty of those tiny “Customer in Training” carts at the grocery store…

If they weren’t so short, they’d be perfect for quick trips ’cause that plastic basket thing they keep a stack of by the door gets heavy on your arm when you overload it with more than 20-items-or-fewer like you know you do.

I’m tempted to grab one of the tiny carts myself but just reaching down for it makes it obvious why those things are for kids.

As you well know, they now have those convenient, less-than-gargantuan-but-full-height carts in some stores, but apparently those are rare because there are never more than a few.

It’s fun for the kid and smart for you to let your kid do the grocery cart thing.

When my second little angel was in grade school she’d get one of those and be our cart pusher that day.

I don’t know if they didn’t have them when my son was that age eight years earlier, or what, but anyway…

As an actual future customer, she’d get serious and arrange her little cart carefully, just the way she liked it and not the way things would land when I’d toss them in.

She’d criticize me for not being careful with the produce and the bread.

This was clever reverse psychology on my part.

Of course, you know when someone’s pushing the cart, they think they can put what they want in it there—I’d have to watch out for what my little shopper would grab from the shelves when I was busy checking the list. More than a few times I’d remove things like frutti-tutti pop tarts or a can of rainbow frosting.

If it was more than a quick trip and we needed more than the little cart, she’d have her little training cart and I’d have my fully licensed cart.

And we’d both be filling those things up—this was no amateur shopping trip.

True to the real-life shopping cart experience, my shopper-to-be was sometimes inconvenienced by bad wheels on her cart—a squeaky wheel or two, a spastic wheel, one wheel that refuses to roll, a wheel that make the cart roll funny or worse, lurch sideways.

You and I know this sorry-ass grocery cart very well.

She’d complain. I’d keep a straight face and say, “It’s part of your training.”

She’d roll her eyes.

Here’s where having two carts is especially helpful, though—when it’s time to check out.

Since she was in training, I tried to let my junior shopper know how to choose the right line, which we all know is not as easy or obvious as it appears—there can be real strategy.

And self checkout is generally just too damned frustrating, so my philosophy is to avoid it if you can.

So I taught my junior shopper to work the two-cart angle, where one of you jumps lines just as it becomes obvious which is the right line that will take you to the finish more quickly.

And of course you know I taught her to hang back a little and look for a line opening up at any moment when they call an extra checker out from the back—and how to leap over there past the shoppers who have no idea what just happened.

But this one time when the new line opened, another shopper jumped in front of both me and my kid in our two separate lines, having beat us both in the watch-for-the-new-line game.

Of course I’d been there before and was only momentarily deflated.

But my budding shopper was both dumbfounded and offended.

At that point I joined my kid in what may or may not have turned out to be the better line on that crazy busy Friday afternoon and said, “You win some, you lose some—it’s all part of your training.”

Then I grabbed a magazine for each of us and said, “Take this. Looks like we’re gonna be here a while.”

In short, I’m glad they invented the customer-in-training cart—I wouldn’t want my darling little future adult to miss out on the full shopping experience:

  • Of pushing a cart with an irritating wheel,
  • Or learning how to properly arrange her groceries in the cart,
  • Or, say, being cut off by a large and over-powering cart filled with meat, canned goods, and wine, as she enters the cereal aisle,
  • Or encountering competitive shoppers at the check-out,
  • Or watching her cart roll away in the parking lot as she’s unloading it.

So use those customer-in-training carts to your advantage, parents.

As soon as Junior gets his/her driver’s license you need to know you can count on your kid. 

After all, if you didn’t raise your kid with the ultimate goal of waiting on you and running errands for you, you’re just plain missing out.




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