Top 5 shameful shopping practices in Cape Breton

I've been blogging about Cape Breton movies lately and it's made me kind of soft and I've been biting my tongue for one reason or another. The whole downtown Sydney discussion is driving me a bit nuts because calling out cynicism (if it even exists in any significant form), in my humble opinion, breeds cynicism and negativity, something we need less of! I encourage you to contribute your own thoughts to the downtown discussion.

I don't want to chime in on the Chase the Ace stuff because it is much easier to ignore it and play the lottery that has better odds. It's an interesting phenomenon but I'm just not caught up in it like other people. I sure hope people still have money to heat their house this winter. I'm sure there are a lot of people that spent money they didn't have.

Frustrated, I went to go get a coffee this morning and it's fueled something inside me that has been brewing for a while. Why has shopping become an activity that throws personal dignity and community values out the window? In CBRM it has become a necessary evil to shop. I wish I could stay home and never shop again. Why? Why? Why?

1. Shopping cart wasteland.

There are now officially more Walmart, Superstore and Sobeys carts in North Sydney in fields, nooks and crannies than at the stores themselves. I haven't done the math but it sure seems that way. On my way to coffee I counted 24 shopping carts in different places. I guess the assumption is that some people are elderly and not well off so they take their groceries to their home in carts. I'm just not buying it. Why wouldn't they take them back? They have to go regularly. And another thing: why aren't these companies collecting them?  Each cart is worth at least $100. Wouldn't it be of benefit to them to have them back instead of degrading the streets of North Sydney? The whole thing boggles the mind. It makes for a great post-apocalyptic backdrop for some future sci-fi movie where everyone is dead and gone, but does little to demonstrate that people should live here and live a healthy lifestyle.  

2. People wearing pajamas to shop.

OK, this doesn't happen just here, and it is a fairly minor infraction of public decency compared to things that could be much worse. But it happens and frequently. This is not something that our foremothers and fathers had to put up with. It's a new trend. I'm not materialistic in any way, and respect and encourage people to dress comfortable. But have these people really given up on life completely? I feel overdressed going to the grocery store in jeans. We can thank our lucky stars for yoga pants or we would all be peer pressured into wearing pajamas all day long. Why not dress up in a costume? Wear a bunny suit or something...

3. Meat stampede.

Has anyone else witnessed this? I've been to the grocery store on a number of occasions where a large group flocks around the door awaiting a new delivery of pork chops, chicken or other meat product and all of the sudden all hell breaks loose. There is some pushing, lots of anxiety and "survival of the fittest" jockeying over packs of meat. It's like a pack of wild dogs. I was compelled to yell "security!!" one time when I witnessed this phenomenon. This removed people from their bizarre pack mentality as they came back to reality and realized things were getting a bit out of control. All was calm again. Now I know why a Walmart employee was trampled to death in the US on Black Friday. Really, there are enough pork chops to go around everyone!

4. People parking at the door of the store with the motor running.

I've been observing the parking situation at the local Wal-Mart. So, there are accessibility spots, spots for pregnant mothers and other spots. Then there is a restricted area along the sidewalk and doors of the store. Cars are all lined up there and it's become a designated spot for obnoxious people that don't care. Sometimes people are in the cars with the motors running. Sometimes they are not in them at all. Almost everyone I see in these cars are younger. So what is the issue with parking in the normal parking area, instead of in the fire lane of the store blocking pedestrians from crossing? I know that everyone thinks it's a treat for some reason to park close to a store. I always park farther away because I have little kids with me sometimes and it is easier to open doors when there isn't anyone around. I don't mind walking. Is it that much more strain on your legs? We could leave some of the close spaces for elderly people if we were decent human beings. It would be a real swell thing to do. After all, these older people have dignity and refuse to park illegally at the door. 

And idling the car, like it is the 1970s. If you are looking to destroy the world at least drive a Volkswagon (like the one pictured above illegally parking in North Sydney). Then there are those people who think they have a fancy enough car to park sideways in two spaces. Don't get me started.

5. Litter

Shopping etiquette doesn't end when you pay for something and drive away. Litter is, without question, a major problem in CBRM. It's as though we have come to accept that our streets are filthy. And it isn't just a sign of poverty-stricken Cape Breton. All this stuff is purchased after all. Even coffee snobs in fancy cars and trucks litter all over the place. So why are people contributing to the litter problem? A lack of community pride?

Why don't you see this type of thing in PEI? There isn't much difference between populations, infrastructure and such. I hate comparing Cape Breton to anything else because it is special, but this is not seen in other places to this extent. It is really problematic.

Although personal responsibility is at the heart of this, one thing that I have noticed is the growing decline in garbage facilities at convenience stores and other establishments.  Garbage is a big cost and many companies, organizations and municipalities have tried to cut back by taking garbage cans away, leaving Tim Hortons and McDonalds to handle the lion's share. I'm not sure how much the municipality is investing in street clean-up as well. There are annual volunteer clean-ups but one spring clean-up doesn't really put a dent in things around here.

It would be so nice to see more shaming opportunities and ideas around littering, if that's the only thing that works. We could look back to our rich history and bring the stocks or pillory back, or just simply make people walk around barefoot as punishment. Or we could try to have the local police crack down and post people's names in the paper that are caught littering. Dealing with this amount of litter should not be the norm. It's safe to say that people that litter don't love Cape Breton like we do. 


I know I'm sounding a bit high and mighty here. I've accused other writers of having a monstrous ego and I'm not completely removed from it myself. One thing I have considered is trying some or all of these things just to see how it would make me feel about myself and experience what other people go through. I could drive to Wal-Mart in my pajamas, leave my car running at the door, take a cart, bring it to my house, leave it on my lawn, and throw a bunch of stuff out on the street (to go along with the other garbage). I wouldn't feel great, but it certainly ensure that I'm not getting all preachy, high and mighty. And maybe it would bring awareness to how crazy some of these things are, and perhaps a call to action - something that is seriously lacking from blogs like this where people complain, there are lots of solutions but nothing is done.

Cape Breton really is a special place with a great community, but often we oversee these things due to being isolated and feeling hopeless. I won't get into people being cynical. I'd rather say that there is hope. I get a sense it wasn't always this way, so what has changed? It is always nice to relish small victories like schools picking up litter, or people holding the door open for an elderly person, or people paying for the person's coffee behind them in line. I dream of a better place where people are truly impressed with what we have to offer. I'm not asking for much. Just a little less litter and some more pride in our community.

Maybe these things don't get to you like they get to me. I was due for a tirade. Everyone has some sort of bee in their bonnet. Some people even dislike whistler tips. The whistles go wooooooo!!!

Chris Bellemore is a blogger from Ontario that moved to Cape Breton Island and is logging his experiences in this strange and wonderful place.

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My music, mostly about how a women did me wrong and other injustices in this cruel world:

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Adrienne Leith Follow Me
Here here!! To all of this. Especially to points 2, 4 and 5! These 'things' definitely get to more than just you!
Joe Ward Follow Me
Lately there's been a strange influx of abandoned shopping carts in Ashby. Was wondering why that was. Students coming back to school or someone established an after hours shopping cart smashup derby I wasn't invited to?
Chris Bellemore My Post Follow Me
I was thinking of volunteering to take them all back to Walmart because they don't seem to have the resources to do it themselves. Perhaps I have more resources than the largest shopping company in the world.
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Jacquelyn Scott Follow Me
OK, Chris, I don't want you to feel all lonely up there on that preach-y pedestal (the image sort of reminds me of that great photograph of the guy sitting on top of the light pole in the middle of thousands of Habaneros on the day Fidel Castro sauntered in to take over Havana, Cuba, Maybe the real ire is partly an ex-pat thing. I've lived here 20+ years, because I love the Island and i just don't get it how people can live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and then set about trashing it.... So I will add to your very sensible suggestions about reinstating the stocks and pillory for such offences, but will drag my thoughts from the culture of our times. Maybe we can develop an educational game for young Cape Bretoners (are you listening, Matt?) that installs values of public cleanliness and civility by creating new Superheroes of Clean and Thoughtful.... For older folks, maybe we develop a monthly or quarterly contest that monetarily rewards those who bring the most garbage in to a free day at the municipal dump.... Maybe the municipality could award honorary Citizen of the Day titles to missionaries of Clean and Thoughtful, an honour that could entitle them to a limited lottery where prizes are normally-auctioned urban real estate with lots of owed back taxes (or which have been ticketed, unsuccessfully, for creating an unholy mess of an abandoned commercial space).... The possibilities are endless.....
Chris Bellemore My Post Follow Me
Great ideas. I know that various organizations adopt highways to keep them clean, but litter is a big problem right in the heart of communities as well. It could be something promoted through health care as an prevention initiative as well to get people off of their couches.
Joe Ward Follow Me
I was thinking about how there is a certain percentage of the population that simply does not care about their surroundings, or have respect for their community, regardless of where we are in the world. In the beautiful city of San Francisco, I worked near 6th and Market. Tourists certainly would never want to go into that part of the city. It was in the midst of slow tech startup gentrification. But open drug sales and addicts that lived and defecated in the streets were a daily thing in that section of the city. This was just a short walk from the city's financial district. I lived in the paradise of Puerto Rico for about 5 years. As amazing as that island is, the culture there had very little respect for it. Abandoned or street born satos (mixed breed dogs of the island) and cats were everywhere, and often splattered into the road, never to be picked up. Garbage was everywhere. Abandoned cars were along the roadsides in many of the otherwise beautiful areas, and the best place to put garbage on a beach seemed often to be wherever someone was standing. So seeing beautiful places littered and unappreciated isn't foreign to me. But it caused me to stop and think. Is there any place in the world where people universally have so much respect that they would act differently? I would say the answer is likely to be "no": It's almost analogous to seeing an attractive, beautifully dressed, miracle of nature (the human body) with a cigarette attached to it. :(
Richard Lorway Follow Me
To answer your question, I think that the way people behave publicly is a function of many things - education, local culture, family culture, poverty, ignorance, etc. Sometimes it can seem like humans are a scourge on the planet, but there are communities (and even countries) where this sort of behaviour is not the norm. Where people take responsibility for cleaning up after themselves because those are the community's expectations. So yes, there are places where littering and dumping garbage in the woods is not "normal" or even tolerated. Too bad we're not one of them.
Mathew Georghiou Follow Me
Perhaps why Singapore canes people who are caught chewing gum.
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Chris Bellemore My Post Follow Me
It certainly seems to be more of a problem in the more poverty stricken areas of the island. I'm not sure how it correlates but it certainly doesn't help with social issues. I commend you folks on your efforts. I'm not sure what the solution is with so many other issues out there, but I think acknowledging that it is a serious problem is a good start.
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Chris Bellemore My Post Follow Me
I did another scan of the shopping cart situation in North Sydney and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. I think that the local franchises officially gave up.
Jason Morrison Follow Me
The retailers should also be held responsible for collecting carts from around the community or face a fine. Part of the problem is caused by them by not having all the carts brought back in the building for the night. Or by lazy employees that don't want to walk to the far end of the parking lot to collect the carts. Allot of these carts disappear from the parking lots over night and show up all over the place. I worked at Zellers for 8 years and the cart collectors were never scolded for not collecting the "far away carts" in the parking lot. Zellers (and I am sure the other retailers) also never provided employees the hours or means (a truck) to collect off site carts.
Keith MacEachern Follow Me
On litter: Tourism is a consistent source of revenue for Cape Breton island---employing hundreds of people. Why then, is one of Cape Breton's main products defaced and sullied? Even the world-renowned Cabot Trail is covered with trash. The lookoffs are truly disgusting. What do visitors think when they see that the local population does not care about the area? On another shameful shopping practice: people picking through berry baskets, particularly. They pick out the ones they want then overfill their baskets. It must be very expensive for the stores (and ultimately to us) because other shoppers, like myself, do not want to buy berries that have been handled by several people. The other outrageous thing is for a shopper to pick up a frozen item or one that has to remain cold then leave it in another part of the store. Again, expensive for the store, the cost of which is ultimately passed on to consumers.
Katherine MacNeil Follow Me
I was away for almost 40 years and moved back 2 years ago. I really didn't notice these problems when I was only here a week or two each year. now I can't believe my eyes... I keep asking "What is wrong with people?" The ditches are filled with garbage all along Route 327. Everyday there are beer cans and coffee cups thrown from cars. Who brought these people up?
Dwight MacInnis Follow Me
loved your tirade, you're in good company for sure!.......was long over due and definitely needed to be said! Another point i'd like to raise, as a person who is from here but didn't grow up here. I've been back on the island for the past twenty years or so, and it amazes me to no end that most people here, ignore Stop it just me?? Again today while running errands here in Sydney, I was almost hit twice by people running through Stop Signs...........i've even witnessed police cruisers behind vehicles that run the Stop Signs, and they do nothing........???? Is this the norm for for CBRM....????
Lynn Hussey Follow Me
Well said!
Ursulina Crocker Follow Me
Hi Chris, I agree with you on the 5 comments you mentioned. It's sad to say but I believe Cape Bretoners are not proud of their towns, and I know it's not just North Sydney. I live here and like you, I can't believe the carts left around the town and the garbage seen. A lot of what is happening I feel is laziness on behalf of a lot of people. Some people even after buying groceries are too lazy to put their carts in the areas they belong. If everyone started doing more to make North Sydney and other towns tidier then all of these towns would look so much better. Wearing pjs shopping is laziness too. This is a sad state of affairs. People need to get out of these bad habits. Start to take pride in yourselves and your towns. We all need to live in them. Think of the tourists coming here and what they must think. My wish for everyone is to start respecting yourselves, your towns and your island. After all, cape Breton is god's country. Let's show people we're proud of our island! Take pride in where you live. Start now! Thanks for reading.
Cathy MacDonald Follow Me
I agree with everything here, well said!! I work in retail and just don't understand those who come shopping in PJ's and I don't think yoga pants should be worn as work attire. I seen a girl working at Canadian tire a few weeks ago wearing her short red shirt and yoga pants. It looked like she forgot to finish getting dressed when she left the house. .... I also don't care for my waitress to be walking around in nothing more then tights!! As far as shopping carts. I had a person call my place of work to tell us one of our carts were in his yard and he wanted it removed NOW!! I thanked him for letting us know and I started phoning friends with trucks to see if they would be kind enough to pick it up and return it to the store. Before I had it picked up the home owner called again saying " your cart is still here and if it hits my car I am laying charges and taking the cart to the dump" I told him I was trying to find someone to pick it up, I suggested that he at least move it away from his car and that if he was taking the time to run it to the dump ( about 30 Kim away ) could he consider just the 2 Km drive and drop it off at the store " with that he hung up on me!!!! I did get the cart picked up within an hour of his original call thanks to a kind friend but wonder how so many people have turned so cranky!!!
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