The Four Swivel Wheel Shopping Trolley Experience

Woman killed by shopping trolley at Tea Tree Plaza is the heading of the news article. My immediate thought? Well, this is no surprise with the shopping trolleys in Australia!

For all of the good things that this Great South Land can lay claim to, an easy steering shopping trolley is not one of them! Apart from the ironing board incident in the very beginning of our Australian adventure, the shopping trolley made sure that I have had quite a few laughs at my own expense.

You may be thinking, ‘Seriously! Jy kla nou met die witbrood onder die arm!’

No, se-ri-ous! The Australian shopping trolleys are a pain in the back, and neck and where ever else you want to say that you are having a pain.

Why? You know how most vehicles of the four wheel sort have fixed back wheels and you steer with the two front wheels? Yeah? Not the Australian shopping trolley. It has not two but four swivel wheels. While empty it is still okay-ish to steer, but start getting your slabs of beer or carton of fizzy drink, or heavy groceries in and you start seeing the metamorphoses of the normal upright homo sapiens into a slouching, shuffling trolley manoeuvring sapiens.

You go left, trolley goes right. You tense your abs and you lock your knees or you take a different approach – build up some speed, go into a turn, leave the steering at the back, run around to the front, grab the front of the trolley and jerk it into the next isle where you want to be.

It is a European thing it seems. The folk at Ikea have four swivel wheels. The Brits have no problems with this. They do not know what they are missing!

I researched, I kid you not, the origins of the shopping trolley. It started in 1937, and somewhere between then and now in America and Africa some one understood that it just works better with two locked back wheels. Why has this knowledge not reached these shores?

I spoke to an occupational therapist to hear whether it is ergonomically better to have four swivel wheels? Her opinion? Not on your life! I even wrote an email to the manufacturers in Australia, asking them why they choose not to lock the back wheels. I did not hear back from them, ergo – they do not know why either.

Dear Migrant to the Great South Land,

you will encounter many new and wondrous things as you set foot on these shores. Be warned! The shopping trolley will not be one of them. It is an evil machine of torture and mass abdominal destruction. It seems that one of the ways to steer this abomination is by crouching over the sides and slouching and shuffling, inch by inch…

Should you decide to park on a slope and you are brave (stupid?) enough to push that trolley uphill, back to your mode of transportation, be aware that you will look like a crab. The trolley will go left and you will go right and somewhere in this tango you will jack knife. You will leave the trolley at the back and you will run to the front to try and pull this donkey, only to find that you will lead right and it will be hell bent on going left. So back to the back you will go, and hopefully you will have enough breath left to start laughing… at yourself. Please do not loose your sense of humour, you will be better of with it, than without it.

To the handy men out there, start working on a patent that your wife can put in her hand bag and clip on to the back wheels of a trolley. If you can get this right, you my friend, will be financially secure.

I now know much more about shopping trolleys than I ever thought I would. I have read instruction manuals on it. Not one answers this question of life: Why on earth does it have four swivel wheels?

Enjoy your shopping when you come here…



4 thoughts on “The Four Swivel Wheel Shopping Trolley Experience

  1. I love this post. When I read your blog I feel like I’m having a conversation with myself. I have had this experience exactly, the trolley, the researching its origins out of fascination, the suggesting to my husband that her really needs to come up with a handbag sized trolley wheel locker… I have NOT actually written to the manufacturer so you get the nerd award for that my darling. I really do love your blog. When I grow up I want to be just like you! If you ever want a collaborator for a book on immigrating to Aus, pls consider me.


  2. I enjoyed reading this! Had a few chuckles along the way because I had some mental images of what you describe (also from my own past experience). The contortions we put our bodies through in order to save that trolley from sometimes wreaking havoc are quite something and reminds me a bit of mr Bean, actually!


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