This post wins the prize for longest title in the existence of the blog.

As a journalism student I like to practice by submitting stories to CNN’s iReport. One of the current assignments is to send in some photos of rogue shopping carts found abandoned in recognition of February’s designation as National Return Your Shopping Cart Month. Seems silly really, but it is a real thing. The stolen and lost carts represent a loss of around $100 each and I can imagine that probably hurts a smaller store owner more than a giant corporation, but a loss is a loss.

So one morning after dropping my daughter off at preschool, I decided I would take my hour and a half of freedom and seek out a shopping cart. I drove around in circles through Denver, and spotted a red one behind a Dumpster in the snow. I thought to myself “Hey I have this big car, and maybe if I return this cart I’ll get to talk to somebody or get their picture.” A little human interest added couldn’t hurt, especially with an assignment like National Shopping Cart Month.

All I did was return the cart to the store. Once it was back with the rest of the carts, I took a quick snapshot of it. That’s it. One picture. It isn’t even really that good, just a boring old shopping cart returned to its rightful home.

This worker from the store comes running out. “Why are you taking pictures?,” she says with a stern look on her face. I tried to explain what I took the picture for. That I just found their cart abandoned in a parking lot and decided to return it to the store on a whim. It’s National Shopping cart month they said. It’ll be fun they said. Now here I am, sitting here watching this angry lady wagging her finger in my face and telling me that I HAVE to delete the images on my memory card. I told her straight away that no I absolutely will not delete anything from my memory card.

Demanding that I delete images from my memory card is intimidation. I will not be intimidated by the manager of the Family Dollar. I laughed in her face and told her that it wasn’t gonna happen. All this after a simple picture of a shopping cart. A shopping cart that I returned after finding it behind a trash can in a local apartment complex. The whole stupid thing started over my attempt to do a good deed.

I would of let myself get arrested over it. Over my dead body will you delete a picture from my camera or try to force me into doing so. I didn’t say that, but the phrase was repeating itself over and over in my head while I just smiled and waved as I was backing away. She got on the phone while giving me a disapproving glare. I imagined to myself what that phone call must have been like. Was she calling the cops? Her corporate office? The head of security?  I guess I’ll never know because I wasn’t sticking around to find out.

I suppose that’s a little extreme, especially over a picture of a shopping cart, but it’s the principal of the thing. If I let you intimidate me into deleting my photos what kind of precedent does that set ? Who are you to enforce a law that you do not even understand? And most importantly why couldn’t you just say thank you for returning the shopping cart?

I don’t feel as if I have done anything wrong in this instance. I can see if I was harassing someone or causing a disturbance, but I wasn’t. There was NOBODY in the store, the parking lot was empty, the $100 I saved them is probably more than the store made all day. They didn’t even have to lift a finger. It’s trivial. I get that. I was just having a bit of fun, trying to participate in a corny awareness month.

I will NEVER delete that shopping cart photo. In fact I’m going to have it framed and hang it in my office. I’ll never share it online because I can respect that a privately owned store can ask me not to take photos, but they do not have the right to force me to delete images from my camera.

What is the Family Dollar so worried about? Why are their employees demanding people who take pictures inside their store to delete images? Especially one as innocent as a memoir of a good deed gone bad.


A Funny Thing Happened to Me While Hunting for Shopping Carts in Observance of National Return Your Shopping Cart to the Supermarket Month