When the “Cart Narcs” Come for You

I Can’t Stop Watching the Videos

Blake Nail / 9.10.20

Anyone who’s been to the grocery store is well aware of the temptation gnawing at you as the cart is emptied into the back of the car and an option is now presented before you. The cart corral is perhaps an aisle over, or maybe the sun has made its presence severely known that day, or possibly, probably, you’re just too tired from the day to even care. You could just leave it up on the curb. You could just abandon it in the empty parking spot next to you. Who would notice?

The Cart Narcs would.

Cart Narcs is a popular growing YouTube channel that specializes in shaming “lazybones” into either putting their carts back or driving off in a fury of embarrassment and guilt. There are numerous videos recorded all across the states where the Cart Narc agents will keep a watchful eye over the parking lots of grocery stores, looking for anyone who is suffering from the human condition. They even carry bumper magnets to slap on cars as they drive off that designate them as someone who doesn’t put their cart away. Printed on them is a phone number for them to call so they can learn how to be a better person. The Cart Narcs are the modern-day, grocery store parking lot Pharisees.

And I’ll admit it. I can’t stop watching the videos.

Not only are they comical, but there’s something to watching someone being confronted with the reality of what they’ve done. When the law hits them right in the face in the form of a man in a vest pointing towards a shopping cart there are usually two responses. Either the accused succumbs to the shame and guilt, realizing the error of their ways and puts the cart back; or they proceed to grow irate and enter into debate with the parking lot lawgiver. The latter route never ends pleasantly for either party.

Now, I think the majority of us would agree that putting our carts back in the corral is the proper and appropriate thing to do. Just like we would concede that being a nice person is always the best action to take in our daily lives. But deep down we all know we have the opposite in us. I’ve left numerous carts out, without a care in my mind. Obviously, since watching this channel I have been more conscientious of not doing so. However, that is from a fear of being caught and shamed on camera rather than a desire to do the “right” thing. That’s because the law never changes you. At least, not internally.

For example, there are numerous cases in which someone who is caught leaving their cart out says they are a fan of the show. They laugh and say they knew they would get caught. Shame, guilt, and getting your mistakes rubbed in to your face never change who you are. You may act differently, you may not. But in reality, nothing has truly changed.

You may be thinking: Carts? Really? Is this actually that important? Perhaps not. I remember sitting in my church’s community group and an elderly lady was sharing an experience she had at the grocery store. She had succumbed to the same temptation as plenty of others in these Cart Narcs videos. Her cart was left out and she hopped back in her car only to think what would Jesus feel about what she had done. I sat there in community group with a fraud of a nod in agreement and an opposite voice in my head which said what you might be thinking: Really? A cart? Why would Jesus care about that? And maybe he doesn’t. But there is something he does care about.

While a cart is such a trivial thing to focus on, I think there is a different battle going on behind the scenes. The need for us to look for righteousness and unrighteousness in every category of life — for the law to bear down on us at every moment of our day, even if it’s the grocery store parking lot. The law sneaks in at any moment it can, even when you’ve lived in God’s grace beautifully all day and you find yourself sitting in your front seat looking at an empty cart thinking, “Oh boy, I really blew it today.” It’s the internal Cart Narc we all have, the accusatory voice constantly pointing a finger in our face. At any moment, the law is ready and willing to invade your thoughts and shame you for what your hands have or haven’t done. Just like the Cart Narcs. Sitting, watching, waiting.

Jesus isn’t a prowling accuser, waiting to pounce on you for what you’ve done (that’s actually the devil [1 Pet 5:8]). He isn’t plotting and planning to shame you with a bumper magnet. He’s more like the silent employee who goes and grabs the carts without a word or utterance towards you and your laziness. He grabs the carts from the curbs, the planters, and even the far corners of the parking lot where you wonder why the hell they were even out that far to begin with. There is no guilt attached to the task, no reminder of how you have once again missed the mark.

You probably should put your cart back. It is the right thing to do. But when the Cart Narcs come for you — and they probably will — remember there is someone out there whose goal isn’t to make you feel uncomfortable in the driver’s seat after leaving your cart out willy nilly. There is another voice, a stronger voice, which says: All is well, my beloved, all is well.

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11 responses to “When the “Cart Narcs” Come for You”

  1. CJ says:

    Blake, I so enjoyed this!! Especially the line about the cart narcs “looking for anyone who is suffering from the human condition.” Reminds me of this vid:

  2. Pierre says:

    Thanks for this reflection. Really helpful image of the law lurking around every corner. I don’t understand the Cart Narcs thing (I’d never heard of it before this post). Why is this something that needs attention and energy? Grocery stores employ people to collect the carts. It’s really not a big deal…

    • Blake Nail says:

      The cart narcs will make sure to remind you, the employees are paid to get the carts from the corral. They are not hired to get the carts left out all ‘willy nilly.’

      • Pierre says:

        Weird, that doesn’t make any sense to me. At my local grocery store, the employees are always the ones collecting random carts from all over the parking lot. So, ipso facto, they are paid to do that. I gather the so-called “cart narcs” are lacking a firm grasp on reality…

  3. Huh, I thought they paid people to go round up carts…

    • Blake Nail says:

      The cart narcs will make sure to remind you, the employees are paid to get the carts from the corral. They are not hired to get the carts left out all ‘willy nilly.’

  4. Todd Brewer says:

    When I worked at Starbucks, the least enjoyable part of the job was picking up customers’s trash. Was it my job to keep the store clean? Yes. But it was always a small reminder of how those customers thought of us employees as simply “the help”.

  5. Kathy says:

    Cart narcs are obnoxious and in many areas could be charged with harassment. I’m disabled and sometimes I just can’t do it and if they harassed me they would be pepper sprayed or zapped then charged for harassment. Sick of this bullshit where people take it upon themselves to police or judge others.

  6. Davo says:

    I always put the cart in the corral because I’m a man and it’s the right thing to do, the only time I recall that I didn’t was during a hail storm. If you don’t put the cart back in the corral, well, it’s really none of my damned business.

  7. Kathy says:

    It’s just another form of judging people without knowing why they behave the way they do. I’m about 50/50 on cart return. I try to return the carts I use or at least put it somewhere it’s not blocking others. Who appointed them to be the cart police?

  8. CartNarc says:

    Bunch of lazy bones, just return your carts people

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