Did You Return Your Shopping Cart? Time to Discuss

A popular YouTube channel confronts those who fail to do so, but is that fair?
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 3, 2023 3:15 PM CDT
The Ethics of Returning Your Shopping Cart
   (Getty / adisa)

His name is Sebastian Davis, but he is better known to fans on YouTube as the Cart Narc. The 42-year-old has created a popular YouTube channel of that name with a simple premise—he busts people who fail to return grocery carts to their corrals in parking lots and films the encounters, explains Nate Rogers at the Ringer. This mostly takes place in the Los Angeles area, though Davis also has traveled abroad, notably to Japan, where no such cart scofflaws appear to exist. The estimate is that half the people Davis calls out dutifully return the cart to the correct place, about a quarter simply ignore him, and the remaining quarter confront him in ways that range from comical to downright dangerous. These would be the "money shots," the encounters that has made his channel (under the umbrella of iHeartMedia) a success.

The story digs into the logistics of the channel but also the surprisingly robust ethical considerations at play when it comes to returning shopping carts. But is Davis guilty of ethical missteps of his own—ie, is he a troll? He thinks not. "A troll is someone who agitates someone simply for the sake of the agitation," says Davis, who argues that he's trying to improve social behavior. Rogers talks to Michael Schur, creator of TV's The Good Place and author of the ethics book How to Be Perfect, who is a bit skeptical. "It's a slightly unfair fight to use a person just going about their day—you don't know what's going on in their life, you don't know what kind of people they are," he says. "And you're kind of preying on the fact that they weren't expecting to be ambushed by a film crew, and then capturing their adrenaline-fueled response to being filmed in that moment." Read the full story. (Or check out other longforms.)

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