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Nope, “Predators” Aren’t An Excuse To Not Return Your Shopping Cart

It’s not hard and it’s certainly not dangerous and you need to get a grip.

To return or not to return, that is the question. Shopping carts that is. Only it’s not really a question. Because everyone knows that bringing your cart back, either to the front of the store or to a cart hub, is the right thing to do. But I regret to inform you that the influencers are at it again as one mom has gone viral after admitting that she refuses to return her shopping cart.

Dr. Leslie Dobson went viral for declaring that she wouldn’t be returning her cart.

The psychologist, who boasts more than 150,000 followers on both Instagram and TikTok, has gone viral for her hot take on grocery carts, which as of press time has been seen almost 12 million times on TikTok and received about 18,000 comments on Instagram.

“I’m not returning my shopping cart and you can judge me all you want,” Dobson says in the video. I’m not getting my groceries into my car, getting my children into the car, and then leaving them in the car to go return the cart. So if you’re going to give me a dirty look, f-ck off.”

I mean, honestly we didn’t need your permission, but OK. Done. We’re judging.

In a recent interview with, Dobson said she posted the video because she wanted to get the conversation started because “predators watch our patterns and routines.”

Respectfully, ma’am, citation needed. Above and beyond that, do you genuinely believe in the 10, maybe 30 seconds it will take someone to bring a cart to a cart hub that a malevolent stranger they didn’t see is going to appear, get into the car, unbuckle a child from their car seat, and take off? If that is a genuine concern, simply lock the door! Park close to the cart hub! Hell, just don’t buckle your kids in until after you return the cart! Have them come with you! There’s no conflict between returning your cart and being a mindful parent.

The TikTok video has gotten a ton of backlash from moms.

Most folks did not agree with Dobson’s hot take. “I’m a single disabled momma,” one comment, which has garnered more than 10,000 likes as of press time, reads. “I have a placard and thus park in the handicap spots. I rely on the cart to help me walk and still walk the cart to the corral and hobble back to my car.”

“I lock my kid in the car for all of the 20 secs it takes me to put [the] cart back and walk to the car,” says another TikTok user. “It’s literally a few seconds of them alone in the car.”

Other comments were sarcastically hilarious.

“I’m curious, how do you get your cart?” one commenter inquired. “You either leave your children in the car, or take them with you. Huh, seems like that would work in reverse.”

“I agree,” reads another. “I have had all 4 of my kids stolen on separate occasions while they sat 30 steps away in the car while I returned my cart. I miss them.”

The risk of a child being kidnapped by a stranger is actually very rare.

The fear of child abduction by a stranger, is far, far greater than the risk. Indeed, children are most often abducted or exploited by someone they know, often family members. There are about 74 million children in the United States and, on average, fewer than 350 stranger abductions annually. (Some years that number can be about 100.) Even the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a nonprofit founded by John Walsh after his son was abducted and murdered by a stranger in 1981, acknowledges that these tragedies are exceedingly rare and account for less than 1% of the missing children cases reported to the organization.

Similarly, the Polaris Project, a nonprofit dedicated to combatting human trafficking, notes that our national preoccupation with our children being trafficked is based on a great deal of misinformation. Trafficked children are usually being exploited by someone they know, often their own family. Trafficking via abduction is actually pretty rare.

Misinformation about child abduction is rampant and not helped by viral posts.

Now of course it’s understandable that we worry. Not only are our children are the most important people in our lives, but we’re frequently hearing very scary numbers. Google “How many children missing in US each year” and the top result is an astonishing 840,000 However this in and of itself points to the problem of misinformation that runs rampant around this topic. The number comes from a website run by a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney with no apparent link to (or citation of) official agencies or non-profits that track missing children cases. But worried parents looking up a quick statistic on Google likely aren’t going to dive into that. (The AI generated answer on Google, incidentally, repeats and misattributes this data, at least as of press time.)

According to the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, who pull their data from the FBI, approximately 460,000 children (including teens) are reported missing every year. While that number is staggering, context is important. Reuters notes that the vast majority of that cohort, upwards of 95% are issues of misunderstandings (e.g.: parents thought their child was abducted from outside only to find them in their room) or, more commonly, runaways.

Almost all children reported missing, approximately 97.8%, return home. Of course, one child taken from a parent or guardian for any amount of time is harrowing and shouldn’t happen. But I strongly doubt any parent who this has happened to would say “The problem, I see now, was returning my shopping cart.”

TL;DR: We live in a society, ma’am.

Dobson told (and a number of folks who commented on her video) that she “wanted to give people permission to not return their carts if their intuition tells them they aren’t safe.” Except no one needed that permission, and certainly not with a weirdly aggressive TikTok. No one is forcing or even pressuring anyone to return their cart “or else.” (Except for the geniuses at Aldi who hold your quarter hostage: keep that up.) But you still should not only because you and your children are going to be just fine, but because it’s the right thing to do with no appreciable risk.