Woman talking to camera(l), Target storefront(c), Target cart(r)

Ken Wolter/Shutterstock @mommyinj/Tiktok @mommyinj/Tiktok (Licensed)

‘Y’all know the cart theory?’: Target customer notices the ‘cart theory’ while shopping (updated)

'People leave their carts EVERYWHEREEE.'


Jack Alban


Posted on Oct 24, 2023   Updated on Oct 29, 2023, 7:16 pm CDT

When TikTok user Indi (@mommyinj) strolled through the aisles of her local Target, she stumbled upon a peculiar sight that she couldn’t help but share with her followers—a bunch of abandoned shopping carts scattered around the store.

In a video that has amassed over 1 million views since being posted on Monday, Indi asks, “Ya’ll know the cart theory?”

For the uninitiated, the shopping cart theory is a social litmus test that gauges an individual’s moral character. It proposes that a person’s capacity to self-govern can be determined by the simple fact of whether they choose to return their shopping cart to its proper place spot or they leave the cart abandoned once it’s served its purpose.

As Indi pans her camera around the store, she reveals a number of abandoned shopping carts in various areas of the store.

“And this cart I got was an abandoned cart,” she adds before asking, “Is everybody OK?”

The comments section of Indi’s video was ablaze with reactions, quirky conspiracy theories, and personal anecdotes.

One user joked, “I know the cart theory about properly returning them, but when I see that at the store, it makes me feel like people are disappearing.”

Another quipped, “The damn rapture happened while you were in Target!!”

@mommyinj This always feels likw a bad sign lol #fyp #carttheory #conspiracy #areuok ♬ original sound – Indi

However, Target employees in the comments offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the phenomenon.

One explained, “As a former employee, they’re for when we find things in our department that don’t belong.”

Another candidly admitted, “I work at target, people leave their carts EVERYWHEREEE, so we just push them into the aisle and hope someone walks past and puts them away lol.”

One user pointed out the potential link between the abandoned carts and current rates of inflation, stating, “It’s from people getting mad(sad) about price gouging and just bouncing.”

Indi resonated with this statement and replied, “I agree with that!! Everything was soo expensive yesterday!!” 

While the video is light-hearted at first glance, it begs the question: Are you the type of person to abandon the cart or put it back in it’s right place? Maybe we should all take a look in the mirror thanks to Indi.

The Daily Dot has reached out to Target via email and Indi via TikTok comment for further information.

Update Oct. 29, 2023, 7:16pm CT: Indi has since posted about nutrition, parenthood, and her empathetic and kind tendency to converse with service workers. As thread about the cart theory on Reddit has deemed it “chaotic good,” and on Twitter it remains a common point of agreement among users:

And yet, the topic has its contrarians, such as this YouTube philosopher who attempts to debunk the theory:

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*First Published: Oct 24, 2023, 1:30 pm CDT