Science

Go cart-ing!

A shopping trolley. Photo: Reuters   | Photo Credit: STEFAN WERMUTH

Which of these two scenarios best fit how you spent your time during the holidays: Did you laze around in your house, ordering the latest mobile with the best RAM specifications from an e-commerce seller, pizzas for dinner and spent hours playing the most recently released games? Or did you go around with your parents whenever you got the chance, helping them with their shopping and daily chores, and earned yourself some extra pocket money? If you belong to the latter category, then you might appreciate this article a wee-bit more…

If you’ve been out shopping, then you surely would have encountered a shopping cart. You see it, you use it to fill in with all the essential commodities that you want to buy, and you leave it once you’ve settled the bill and got your goods transferred to your bags. Did you ever stop to think how these carts came to be? Let’s find out…

Born in 1898, Sylvan N. Goldman had steadied himself by the 1930s after having been through the Great Depression. He owned the Humpty Dumpty supermarket chain in Oklahoma City and was doing reasonably well.

Sitting in his store one day, Goldman noticed that his customers were carrying their groceries in hand-held baskets. It didn’t take him long to realise that this was acting as a limiting factor, as customers stopped purchasing if the basket either couldn’t fit in anything more, or had become too heavy to carry around.

Staring idly at a wooden folding chair, Goldman wondered how he could make the shopping experience more comfortable for his customers, which in effect would lead to better results for him. That was when it struck him that by replacing the seat with baskets, and adding wheels on the legs, he could give his customers a shopping cart.

Doubters

Working with Fred Young, a mechanic, Goldman got his first prototypes made. Metal frames with two wire baskets, they were designed to be folded such that the two baskets nested on each other. Owing to his stroke of inspiration, Goldman named them ‘folding basket carriers’. Papers in Oklahoma City carried advertisements of these on June 4, 1937. If you are under the impression that they were an instant hit, wait till you hear this. While men thought using these might make them look weak, women considered them not so fashionable.

Goldman hired models of different age groups and both sexes and made them pretend like they were shopping. Add to it a store greeter who encouraged the use of these carts, success was inevitable. Shops were designed such that checkout counters and aisles aided the use of shopping carts and by the 1940s, their popularity was huge.

Space saver

In 1946, Orla E. Watson from Kansas City came up with a telescoping shopping cart that enabled the carts to be fitted into one another, saving precious shop space at the front and allowing for compact storage. Patent wars ensued between Watson and Goldman before they eventually reached upon a settlement.

As for the carts, the basic design has more or less remained the same, while ergonomic changes have been taken into account. Most retail supermarkets offer these carts in the hope that bigger carts that are convenient to move around encourages the customers to buy more, increasing their sales.

Reach the writer at ganesh.a.s@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 12:29:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/in-school/sh-science/go-carting/article7268214.ece

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