Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Evolving Shopping Cart

The first supermarket, a Piggly Wiggly, opened in 1916 in Memphis, Tennessee. This market radically changed the approach to shopping for food and sundry items. Customers chose their goods from shelves and put them in a hand basket, rather than handing a clerk a list and taking what was given.

Butchers, bakers, and green grocers everywhere were likely cursing this new paradigm, knowing it to be a threat to their own livelihoods. Why would anyone visit several vendors and pay more for the goods when they could stop at one place, choose their own goods –rather than the shopkeeper selecting for them – and save money doing it?

Yet, in 2017, that's just what I, and millions of others, are doing. I make a list and send it to Wal-Mart and when I go to the store, an associate loads the neatly bagged items into my trunk.

From Piggly Wiggly to Pick & Click

Perhaps one of the more notable inventions to arise from this social change is the shopping cart.

In 1937, Sylvan Goldman, owner of a supermarket chain in Oklahoma, noticed his customers only bought as much as they could comfortably carry in their hand baskets. He realized his customers would buy more goods if they didn't have to carry them around the store as they shopped.

So Mr. Goldman invented the shopping cart. It was a clumsy contraption resembling a handcart, and this has transformed into the clattery, one-wheel-always-in-the-other-direction baskets we know today.

From these we derive the virtual carts seen on every e-commerce site, from local shops to the retail giants. That little icon represents a century's worth of consumerism comfort.
Shopping Carts: An Important Contribution to Consumer Comfort

I don't need to walk the aisles, pushing a clattery cart through a crowded store, wait in line while the person in front of me insists the cookies are five cents cheaper, hope the bagger doesn't crush the eggs, and then navigate said cart back to my car.

I send a list to a clerk who collects the goods, and hands them over. Just like the olden days.

So, What's Not to Like?

I tried Wal-Mart's pick-up service and then the delivery service. I didn't like the delivery service because a box of cookies came four days later, not in two days with the rest of the order. Getting a box of cookies two days later than you wanted to have them isn't convenient; it's annoying.

For the pick-up service, you should have the Wal-Mart app on your smart phone so you can notify the staff you are on your way. I don't have the app and don't want the app. I do have a phone. I could just text, but you have to have the app for the whole operation to run smoothly.

The biggest issue with both options, though, is that I can't get fresh meat, dairy or produce. This is the bulk of my shopping. So I have to go to the store anyway. And I'll just get my cookies then.

Except I'll Probably Use the Services Again

I've been an Amazon Prime member for a long time and their delivery service is essential to my consumerism. Last week I bought pet food and a bookcase. I also received all the items on my monthly subscription. And it all came to my door without a hitch. This is the new goal for consumer comfort.

Wal-Mart has some catching up to do. They might be feeling a little like the butchers, bakers, and green grocers did when Piggly Wiggly came to town.