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A shopping cart (American English) or trolley (British English), also known as a carriage, basket or buggy, is a cart supplied by a shop, especially supermarkets, for use by customers inside the shop for transport of merchandise to the checkout counter during shopping. Customers can then also use the cart to transport their purchased goods to their cars.
In many places in the United States and the United Kingdom, customers are allowed to leave the carts in designated areas within the parking lot, and store personnel will return the carts to the storage area. In many continental European premises, however, coin- (or token-) operated locking mechanisms are provided to encourage shoppers to return the carts to the correct location after use.
Studies have shown that it's advisable for shoppers to sanitize the handles and basket areas prior to handling them or filling them with groceries due to high levels of bacteria that typically live on shopping carts. This is due to the carts having a high level of exposure to the skin flora of previous users.
Most modern shopping carts are made of metal or a combination of metal and plastic and have been designed to nest within each other in a line to facilitate collecting and moving many at one time and also to save on storage space. The carts can come in many sizes, with larger ones able to carry a child. There are also specialized carts designed for two children, and electric mobility scooters with baskets designed for disabled customers.
In the United States, 24,000 children are injured each year in shopping carts. Some stores both in the USA and internationally have child carrying carts that look like a car or van with a seat where a child can sit equipped with a steering wheel and sometimes a horn. Such "Car-Carts" may offer protection and convenience by keeping the child restrained, lower to the ground, protected from falling items, and amused.
Shopping carts are usually fitted with four wheels, however if any one wheel jams the cart can become difficult to handle. Most carts in the United States have swivel wheels at the front, while the rear wheels are fixed in orientation, while in Europe it is more common to have four swivel wheels. This difference in design correlates with smaller retail premises in Europe.
An alternative to the shopping cart is a small hand-held shopping basket. A customer may prefer a basket for a small amount of merchandise. Small shops, where carts would be impractical, often supply only baskets, or may offer a small cart which uses an inserted shopping basket within the frame of the cart to provide either choice to a customer.