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Shopping carts may be causing us to spend more

grocery shopping
Posted at 1:50 PM, Jun 06, 2022

The shopping cart has been around for close to a hundred years.

New research suggests it may be due for an update.

Those shopping cart handles that drive like a wheelbarrow increase people's willingness to spend, according to recent research out of Europe.

The reason may be biological -- traditional carts activate our triceps or pushing muscles.

The wheelbarrow cart engages the biceps the muscles we associate with pulling motions.

“Throughout our lives, we develop an association between pushing things away and things that we don't like, and we form an association between pulling things toward us and things that we do like,” said Zachary Estes at the City University of London.

“Once that association is developed, the theory goes, it can be flipped so that if you activate the muscles involved with pulling something towards you, it actually increases your liking of that thing,” Estes said.

In field tests, people spent more money using the wheelbarrow handles on a shopping trip, but they didn't like the new handles as much as the old ones.

“There's this conflict for the retailers where consumers say, ‘ah, I don't really like these weird handles.’ But on the other hand, they're getting these increased sales,” Estes said.

It's unclear whether this research will motivate stores to adopt an updated shopping cart. A few manufacturers and stores are reportedly interested but have not made a commitment.