Psychologist Mom Reveals Why She Refuses To Return Her Shopping Cart At The Grocery Store — ‘You Can Judge Me All You Want’

Commenters point to the shopping cart theory, questioning the morality of those who don't return their carts.

Shopping cart in parking lot OMfotovideocontent / Shutterstock

“I’m not returning my shopping cart, and you can judge me all you want,” Dr. Leslie Dobson, a psychologist and parenting content creator, declared in a TikTok, sparking a fierce debate regarding shopping cart etiquette.

The psychologist and mom revealed that she does not return her shopping cart because her children are with her.

“I’m not getting my groceries into my car, getting my children into the car, and then leaving them in the car to go return the cart,” she said in a video that has been viewed over 12 million times. 


Dobson's proclamations have received mixed reactions from fellow moms and grocery shoppers.


While some frequent shoppers agreed, claiming they too do not bother to bring their shopping cart back into the store or to a shopping cart corral, others fiercely argued that it is unacceptable to leave your cart unattended in the middle of the parking lot — even if you have kids. 

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Commenters offered alternative methods to how Dobson could consider her children’s safety while still doing the right thing and returning her cart.

"If you can take your kids to get the cart, you can take them to return it. Or park next to a cart return so you never leave your car to begin with," one user advised.

“No hate to this person, because if I had to choose my child’s safety over returning the shopping cart, I would choose my child’s safety, but that is why I always park next to a shopping cart return thing,” TikTok user Jillian Blair echoed in a video response. “Even if I have to park far away from the store entrance, that is what I do to do my part in returning the shopping cart.” 

@jillianblairc #stitch with @Dr. Leslie i understsnd where she is coming from, but i believe we can always do our best to do our part in helping store employees life a little easier. Its not always possible, but 98% of the time I’m able to park right next to a cart return. #shoppingcart #shoppingcarttheory ♬ original sound - Jill | ttc + infertility

Others used Dobson’s video to highlight the controversial “shopping cart theory," which states that one’s moral character can be determined by whether or not one chooses to return their shopping cart to their designated return spot after use.

Fellow content creator Jen Hamilton chimed in to echo the shopping cart theory and provide options to busy parents who do not want to return their shopping cart and leave their children in the car.

“There are other options that include being able to take responsibility for the things we have taken responsibility for,” Hamilton said. “When we accept using a shopping cart as a tool to help us shop, part of the responsibility is just putting it back in a safe place.”


Suppose parents do not want to leave their children in the car while they return the shopping cart. In that case, Hamilton argued that they could either take all of the groceries out of the cart and return it before loading up the car or bring the kids along with them to return the cart once all the groceries were packed away. 

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Instead of presuming the task to be a bother, Hamilton explained how it can be used as a valuable teaching moment.


“One of the most important things to me as a mom, second to keeping [my kids] safe, is teaching them how to be human beings who care about others,” she said. This means teaching them to clean up after themselves, including returning a shopping cart to its proper once they're done using it.

While returning your shopping cart only takes a few moments out of your day, most grocery store employees will be grateful for your actions and for making their jobs easier. 

Between checking out customers, stocking shelves, and constantly price-checking items, their jobs are already difficult. Let's not add on the additional work of rounding up the shopping carts scattered around the parking lot.

@smokeeash Sometimes its just enough💀😭 #foryou ♬ original sound - smokeash

Refusing to put your cart away is also unfair to other shoppers who may be unable to park in their desired spot due to a stranded shopping cart. 


While you are likely not an evil person at heart if you refuse to return your shopping cart, it does not show care or respect for your fellow humans. It only takes a few seconds to put away your shopping cart, but your quick actions will have a ripple effect on those around you.

As one commenter put it, "It was never about the shopping cart. It’s about the principle. It’s about answering the question: Am I willing to take some time out of my day to do something nice for nothing in return?"

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Megan Quinn is a writer at YourTango who covers entertainment and news, self, love, and relationships.