Put the Trolley Away


Every now and then something brilliant appears online that stops you in your tracks.

A Public Policy Survey in 2016 found that nearly 12 million people believe that an elite class of space-traveling lizards rule the earth. Among these lizards is apparently Justin Bieber, who was reported earlier this year to have shape-shifted mid-concert into a giant reptile with “big scaly claws” and “a black stripe down its middle.”

Read that again..

12 million people believed this. 12 MILLION PEOPLE!

That’s the power of the internet.

Starting July 2014, we started seeing videos of people pouring a bucket of ice over them, popping up all over our social media. The Ice Bucket Challenge, sometimes more appropriately called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, blew up all across the world and became a trending campaign to promote awareness on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Motor Neuron Disease (MND). The internet trend ended up raising over $115 million for the ALS Association which helped the research team make a significant discovery.

Again, the power of the internet.

The Shopping Trolley Theory

In 2021, as the world remained locked down during the pandemic, a simple idea was posted anonymously online, essentially suggesting a unique way to determine whether you were a good person or not. And like many things on the internet, it blew up big time and shocked many into reconsidering their behaviours.

This is The Shopping Trolley Theory...

Going to the supermarket is not uncommon, we’ve all done it. At times we might just pop in to grab a couple of items but occasionally life requires a big shop. You may call it the weekly shopping, but in my house, it’s the big shop. And the big shop requires a trolley.

Now, shopping trolleys are pretty much the same the world over. We’ve all seen one, we’ve all pushed one, we’ve all filled one, we’ve all sat in one and we’ve all lay across the top of one while our friends or siblings push us through supermarket aisles at great speeds. We’ve all emptied the contents of our trolley on to the checkout for it to be scanned and we’ve all re-filled it, once bagged and paid for.

I understand this doesn’t sound like the making of a potentially life-changing theory but stick with me, for this is about to change.

You head for the doors and you leave with a trolley full of supermarket treasures. You head for the car. It’s further away than you remember. You unlock the car and open the boot. All the shopping bags are hoisted out of the trolley and into the car.

You know what happens next, don’t you? You need to return the trolley.

You can either return the trolley to the actual supermarket itself, or you can return it to one of the many trolley bays scattered across the car park, designed to make life easier for those of us in a hurry.

It’s just that sometimes you find yourself parked a fair distance from said supermarket or said trolley bay.

You are faced with dilemma. To return? Or, not to return? That is the question.

And this dear reader, is where it gets interesting…

To return the shopping trolley is an easy, convenient task and one which we all recognise as the correct, appropriate thing to do.

To return the shopping trolley is, in its simplest form, the right thing to do. And plus, let’s not forget you’ll get your pound coin back.

There are very few reasons to not return the trolley. Dire emergencies, young kids in the car or perhaps you are physically unable to, I’ll give you all of these but aside from that, returning the trolley is the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter that it’s someone else’s job to put the trollies away.

But, it’s not illegal to not return it. It’s not illegal to abandon your trolley in the middle of the carpark or on a pavement nearby. No one will punish you. You won’t receive a fine, you definitely won’t be going to jail and it’s not going to kill you.

Therefore, the shopping trolley presents itself as the perfect example of whether a person will do what is right without being forced to do it.

You gain nothing from returning the shopping trolley. In other words, you must return the shopping trolley out of the goodness of your own heart. You must return the shopping trolley because it is the right thing to do. Because it is correct.

The theory claims that the humble shopping trolley is what determines whether a person is a good or bad member of society. Now, some might feel that’s pushing it a little, in your mind the whole thing might seem far-fetched or perhaps overly simplistic.

But it stopped me in my tracks.

The shopping trolley theory for me is representative of so many moments in life where we find ourselves faced with a very simple decision of doing the right thing or not.

Picking up litter. Picking up dog poo. Tidying the house. Studying for an exam. Preparing for a job interview. Helping your parents. Babysitting your younger siblings. Saying ‘thank you’. I could keep going!

Quite often, doing the right thing requires a bit more energy, a bit more effort. But here’s the thing, we feel better for doing it. There’s always the easy route.

This whole thing is about being in a moment and making a decision. The right decision.

In life we are faced with a continuous, daily decision-making dilemma. If you find yourself presented with one of these moments and you know what the right thing is to do but there is an easier, quicker way, no matter how much more effort is involved, how much more time it will take, just think to yourself ‘Put the trolley away’.

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