My first thought as we enter the mall parking lot: where are the shopping carts? This indispensable tool in our bargain-hunting arsenal has many names – trolley, carriage, trundler, buggy and wagon basket. They come in many sizes, the larger ones able to support a baby carrier or, by adding a small steering wheel and horn, entertain a toddler. A more recent invention is the motorized cart designed for those with mobility issues and for our aging population.
We can thank Sylvan Goldman, owner of the Piggly Wiggle supermarket chain in Oklahoma City, for this amazing invention. One night in 1936, he sat in his office thinking of ways to increase sales. Most people came to his store with a little bag and left with little groceries. Why not give shoppers a carrying helper by their side? His first attempt was a wooden folding chair with a basket on the seat and wheels attached to the legs. There were a few minor problems such as collapsing under added weight, but the dream did not die. Fred Young, a mechanic and a Piggly Wiggle employee, began tinkering and the idea took shape. Mass production came about when another mechanic, Arthur Kosted, developed an assembly line able to form and weld wire. The patent number 2,196,914 was awarded on April 9, 1940.
Now that Sylvan had the cart, no one wanted to use it. Men thought they were effeminate and women said they didn’t want another baby stroller. Sylvan was undaunted. He knew what he had – all that remained was to sell the idea. Some would say he used a form of stealth advertising. He hired male and female models to walk around his stores demonstrating the cart’s beauty and efficiency. The rest is history. Sylvan became a multimillionaire and, over the years, helped retailers across the nation increase sales and generate customer loyalty. It seems that the bigger the basket, the more you will buy. Check it out for yourself! I did…
The Invention that Changed the World (of Shopping)