I’m no Poe, but let me share the story of the tell-tale cart

I need a grocery store with big carts that encourage consumption, not a boutique (even a full-service one).
I need a grocery store with big carts that encourage consumption, not a boutique (even a full-service one). AP

A family must eat, and mine is no exception. And eat they do, my five growing children, in volume that can move cattle futures. I know that feeding them is my responsibility. That doesn’t mean I have to like buying their groceries.

The pain I felt was more acute than normal the other day. Circumstances required that I grocery shop not in my usual spot, but someplace a little more up-market. I’d say boutique, but this was a full-service grocery. And that’s what I needed that day, full service.

From the moment I walked in, I sensed something different about the place. For one thing, it wasn’t lit up like a runway at Charlotte Douglas. The beckoning vibe was more Charlie Parker than Charlie Daniels, a come-for-the-kale and stay-for-the-ambience proposition. Everything smelled of cinnamon.

So what’s the problem? I couldn’t put my finger on it, although I did feel a vague sense of foreboding. The clerks, while not rude, weren’t falling over themselves to help me locate the grocery carts, which I clearly was trying to do. In fact, it wasn’t until I located the carts that I knew for sure: My kind – the big family kind – was not welcome. The tell-tale cart told me all I needed to know.

Mike Kerrigan

Let me break this down, literally. What I found wasn’t a cart, a cavernous berth of wire and wheel, built for conspicuous consumption. It was a glorified picnic basket perched atop an effete stroller, a contraption I had to put together. Some assembly required – what is this, Christmas morning? If I wanted to build something I’ll use once, I’d buy a ping pong table.

Once assembled, the size of the cart was rather disheartening. I found the whole process like origami: a lot of work for a folded little swan. You cannot feed a family of seven with the cart’s payload. I mean you can, but you’d have to bungee five carts together and navigate through the store like the Spanish Armada. This would not play well in the spices aisle.

At first I was perplexed to see no checkout lane marked “10 Items Or Fewer.” Only when I realized no cart conceivably could hold more than 10 items did I understand. Such signage would be as gratuitous as “No Marshall Tucker Band” over the barista’s espresso machine – don’t worry, brother, it’s not on the playlist.

I understand the space constraints of high-end retail, but we’re in Charlotte, not Downtown Tokyo. What if I had a child in tow? I’ll admit I don’t love the traditional configuration, where Junior’s legs dangle like summer sausages while he stares all googly-eyed at me, nose-to-nose. But those conventional carts embrace me as I am, and don’t judge.

Even if Junior could fit into this basket, I’d need Tommy John surgery after swinging him around in it. And besides, that would surely violate some safety law inspired by Ralph Nader, whom I swear I just saw by the arugula.

If this keeps up, the only people who will feel comfortable shopping for groceries here will be those who’ve hang-glided with Moby, or dated a glassblower. You know, the better sort, not regular people like me … oh, I see.

Mike Kerrigan is an attorney in Charlotte. Email: