Each time one visits a grocery store, they probably dread two things. One is not being able to find what you need, and the second is a bratty kid screaming at the top of their lungs while you try to peacefully select your groceries. Those days may be over.
The semi-popular Publix grocery store is now testing the TV Kart, a car-shaped shopping cart complete with a TV screen that plays popular children’s shows, including Barney, the Wiggles, and my personal favorite, Bob the Builder.* These carts aim to please kids, and give some peace to your normal visit your local grocery store. Of course, there is a catch. The peace and quiet is going to cost you $1, which, for most parents, is a small price to pay.
â€œâ€˜They’ve been a big hit so far,â€™ said Publix store manager Jerry Meyer, watching a steady stream of tots making a beeline for the carts on a recent Friday morning. Kids were running so fast toward the carts that many parents didn’t see a fairly small â€˜insert $1â€™ sign, though, spurring a few borderline Terrible Two moments when the wheels wouldn’t unlock.â€ (Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution )
According to recent News Reports, these carts are all the rage in New Zealand, and made their way into the States eight months ago. Both Walmart and Texas based H-E-B are also testing the TV Karts. According to the makers of the Kart, stores generate up to $100,000 in sales per year for a store due to the fact that research has shown parents shop an average of eight to nine minutes longer while using the TV Kart.
“We claim we can keep a child entertained for 48 minutes,” says Patrick Burke, Southern regional manager for Cabco USA, the makers of the TV Karts. “That’s long enough for a good, solid shop.”
But not everyone is sold on the TV Karts. Amusing ourselves to death may just be the theme song of the next generation. You can watch television at home, in the minivan, and now at the grocery store.
â€œPretty soon we wonâ€™t have to interact with each other at all,â€ said local Christian radio announcer Tracey Tiernan, her words dripping with sarcasm. â€œDonâ€™t you just love that?â€
If ever the late Neil Postmanâ€™s** statement that we as Americans are allowing ourselves to be amused and entertained into mindlessness rang true, itâ€™s now.
â€œExcellent design,â€ commented Jones Foyer on Gizmodo.com, â€œYour kid can continue to be hypnotizsed into a consumerist zombie by the television- that is if the TV is working, which I expect won’t be after being banged around a supermarket for a couple of weeks. The blow molded bucket seat is a perfect breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria left my previous dirty little kids as well. I’ve always thought the traditional welded wire carts were a great solution for carrying your kids with you because they are oriented facing you: how novel, eye contact and human interaction.â€
This whole TV Kart episode is just flat out bad. And with the amount of kids glued to the television these days, I donâ€™t see any reason why this idea will not explode. Eye contact and human interaction are becoming a novel idea. Our minds are truly beginning to melt, as parents avoid parenting, kids avoid learning and living, and companies just slurp up the money.
But we must not declare technology to be something completely evil.
â€œTechnology is not bad,â€ notes Alex Harris in his article â€˜Busy Signals: Our Wired Generationâ€™. â€œWe must look for the positive and innovative ways in which we can use and adapt to new technology. But we must never forget what it can’t do — and more importantly — what we can’t do while we’re using it.â€
Such as actually living.
To Be Continued
* Just kidding.
** Neil Postman is the author of Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.