By Mark Frauenfelder at 10:53 am Mon, Apr 14, 2008
I'm interested in hearing about other honor payment systems you've come across, and how well they work.
I hate to think of what an unscrupulous person would do with the information on this thread…
But quite apart from not being able to stop locals stealing vegetables from the fields at night, the farm I worked at last summer in Massachusetts had a 24 hour stand run on the honour system. Shortly before I arrived it was discovered that someone was stealing the money from the jar, and the man who owned the farm responded by installing the fakest looking fake CCTV camera I have ever seen. It had a working red light on it, at least. I still believe it was a decoy, and the real camera was inside a hallowed out watermelon or something.
Another counter-example. At the Walgreen’s near where I work, you can’t even give the woman the 50 cents for the Tribune and then leave because she has to ring it up and give you a receipt. At least at the little news stands, you can drop the money and grab a paper.
We have a whole cafe on the honor system in a suburb of Seattle called Kirkland. It’s called Terra Bite. You can paypal them your coffee money each week. The system is anonymous, so they don’t keep track of who pays what, and their finances are up on a chalk board in the cafe. They also have an xbox so you can chase pinatas while sipping your mocha!
Don’t think the rail systems really count as “honor systems”. The Portland light rail uses a similar system or at least did some years ago. They don’t check for tickets/passes every trip, but they spot check – and anyone caught cheating gets tossed off and pays a really hefty fine. The fine is both a deterrent and a source of revenue to make up for uncaught cheaters. I’m guessing they come out ahead, especially when you count labor savings in spot checking rather than checking every ticket.
Pop’s Fruits & Vegetables in Waukon, Iowa leaves its assortment of large pumpkins ($3 each) outside all night in the fall for anyone who wants to buy. Not only this but each morning, suprisingly, the pumpkins are found where they were left . . . in one piece.
apparently, in Vancouver, Canada (home of the police taser murder)they fry you for fare evasion on their honor system train line
most of the bodegas in my neighboor hood in brooklyn don’t look the other way when people put money on the counter and walk out with something. i do it all the time actually… much quicker than waiting in line.
also @COPPERPIXIE in Prague you can pay a fee and get a license to collect fines for getting on the trains and trollys without paying. all those people are sort of freelance meter maids and they all take bribes…
Before moving from San Francisco, I set out books on the sidewalk with a sign “put what you think is a fair price through the mail slot” and made a good amount of money for my efforts. One person even knocked on the door and negotiated with me for some old Chaosium Call Of Cthulhu games I had sitting out.
In my neighborhood, I’m pretty sure all the papers would be gone and no money paid.
If you needed a paper, you could then buy it from the “homeless” guy on the corner.
I don’t know if this counts as an honor “system” in the sense that you are using it;
I frequently do artwork that requires 23K gold leaf. I live in the city and this place is in the suburbs. It’s a father and son business. I phone in my order, sometimes as much as a few hundred bucks at a time. They rush my gold off within a day and the package contains a bill. I’ve not always paid right away and they’ve never complained. They just absolutely trust that I’ll pay sooner or later.
Around Heidelberg, in Germany, it is common for local farmers to leave a table of produce by their gate with a coin tray and a sign with prices. There are cycleways throughout the area … and it was always rather nice to cycle about and pick up some local fruit and veg.
When I lived in Switzerland a few years back, it was so rare to see anyone checking municipal bus tickets that it was essentially the honor system. Seems like most people happily bought tickets.
(Of course, I have no idea what the penalty for getting caught without a ticket is, so that may be part of it.)
At Centro, a corner cafe across from San Francisco’s South Park, coffee drinkers can bypass long lines by pouring their own cup and honor systemming their $1.50 into a cup by the register. I’m not a coffee drinker, but from what I’ve seen while waiting in line for five minutes for my tuna sandwich, the system seems to work fine.
In Prague, the public transportation works on mostly the honor system. You purchase and stamp a ticket, then carry it around with you. Every so often someone might ask to see it and if you don’t have one, you pay a fine.
In the Cretaceous Period it was the norm for newspapers to be sold through “honour boxes”. The coins did fall in a locked container but the newspapers were all stacked in an open ended box. Bus fare was about seven cents if memory serves.No one wore an onion on their belts though,probably because of the Famine.
I remember visiting fields covered with berry bushes in my youth in the middle of nowhere with a box near the gate for payment. You paid by the bushel instead of the pound though. Alton Brown and his crew bought asparagus from a midwest field on the honor system on the second season of Feasting On Asphalt. It was nice to see this kind of thing still exists.
Re: Public transport in Europe.
It’s not really an honour system, commuters are making a trade off between how much it costs to buy a ticket, and the cost of a fine/likelihood of being caught if they don’t.
In most of the ex Soviet states the cost of getting on a tram or metro is so reasonable it’s not really worth the risk, whereas in Scandinavia public transport costs are really, really high, so it’s possibly more worth the risk.
The annoying thing is that in the UK public transport is shockingly inadequate, shockingly expensive, and if i get on a train i have to produce my ticket a minimum of 3 times before i complete a journey.
As someone who practices the World’s Oldest Body Hacks for a living, I’d submit The Community Acupuncture Network (www.communityacupuncturenetwork.org) as an excellent example of an organization who teaches, promotes and advocates for a sliding-scale/honor-system style business model.
At ‘community acupuncture’ clinics, people are very simply asked to pay what they can afford (w/o income verification of any kind) and people do just that.
The sliding scale at CA clinics runs from $15-40/visit – where market rates for acupuncture across the US average ~ $75/visit at last check.
There are about 50 such full-time clinics (independently owned) across the US.
(Full disclosure: I am a community acupuncturist (in Manchester, NH) and a CAN board member)
At the corner of my street a farmer has a veggie stand in the fall that uses an honor system.
We always ride out bikes there to get corn or peppers or squash or whatever for dinner.
He just has a little lock box with a slot to slide money into.
My parents buy their eggs from a farmer near their home. Pull up to the farm house, and inside the farmer’s garage is a fridge with cartons of eggs in it. Go right inside the garage door, put money in the jar, return some egg cartons if you have them, and get a fresh dozen from the fridge.
Scottfree, I think the general result from the honor system studies is that people don’t tend to steal something of little value (bagels, veggies) – perhaps the social cost of getting caught (for sociopaths) and the warm-fuzzy feeling of being trusted (for non-sociopaths) outweighs the small benefit of stealing some corn. But some people WILL steal actual money, if they can. Honor systems are more successful with a locked cash box with just a slot to stick money in, rather than an open cash jar.
Most people are cooperators, but you gotta watch out for that 1% to 3%, by not giving them a chance to do major damage to the system.
Also now I want to carry around a watermelon with a camera hidden inside it.
My home is about a mile from the “Old North Bridge” in Concord, MA. (Yep, “The shot heard round the world”, etc. etc.)
There are no less than six roadside “honor system” stands within a five-minute drive, offering various things like home-grown produce, home-farmed honey, and cut firewood.
The produce stands generally start showing-up every year in the late summer/early fall as people’s gardens start to harvest, and stay open so long as they’ve got produce left to sell.
Considering these same families run these things year-after-year, and always just run them by leaving their “merchandise” and cash box unattended next to the road, I’d have to say such honor payment systems work quite well.
Needless to say, this is a suburban/semi-rural setting, so YMMV elsewhere.
One of my favorite bars ever – Ivans, an honor system bar in a shack on the beach on Jost Van Dyke , BVIs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71V9BjXhgv4
Presumably they are not losing money on this, otherwise they would stop.
Several years ago we bought a large wooden bear carved with a chainsaw, for $50, down in western North Carolina. A lady had a whole yardful with various price tags, and an honor system box. We left her a check and took the bear, which sits in our driveway. There were several such businesses along the road in that area–some selling welded metal yard art, wooden signs, nicknacks, or jams, honey, and jellies. We found the whole thing to be charming and life affirming. How wonderful to be trusted and to show oneself to be trustworthy!
A few years back, I went to “Booked Up”, a bookstore owned by author Larry McMurtry (he often ran the register, himself) a damned impressive place in his hometown of Archer City, TX. It contains 400,000 books, so many that it takes up four buildings, all lining the Archer City courthouse square. The office is in the main building, Booked Up No. 1, which was once a Ford dealership. Purchases of books stored in other buildings are made through the honor system; customers walk them across the street or down the block to pay for them.
the coffee bus on Grateful Dead tour in the eighties and early nineties was entirely honor system.
it was fun
Old Soul coffee in Sacramento used to use only the honor system. Just a jar of money on the counter and you made your own change. Last time I was there they had a cash register. I guess it was too hard to figure out tips.
So anyway, I say, “Hey waitress, this coffee tastes like mud”. She says, “It ought to, it was ground just this morning.”
Ouch. That hurt to write.
The regional transit trains in the Toronto area are on an honour system, but unlike #3 above they seem to check pretty often. Inspectors come into the cars maybe one trip in twenty that I take.
Bart’s Books (www.bartsbooksojai.com), also in Ojai, has bookshelves on the outside of their building filled with used books for sale. You take the book you want, and then throw your money over the wall to pay for it.
Besides this unique selling method, the rest of Bart’s Books is worth a visit. It’s a great little used book store, and they always seem to have an author or poet visiting.
Miller’s Bar in Dearborn Michigan, has some of the best hamburgers around ( in this commenters’s opinion*). During the afternoon lunch rush the line frequently flows out the door.
In the midst of the this madness, they still employ an honors system to pay for food orders. No written bills are given, you are on your honor to accurately relay your order to the cashier.
* while researching this comment I found that some person named, “Oprah” also happens to think this is one of the top 20 burgers in the US, go figure.
The Book Lounge & Vending Cafe in West St. Paul, MN is fairly often unstaffed while the owner steps out for a meal or just doesn’t feel like being there. They’ve got a huge, messy selection of books. Pick what you want and drop your money in the lock box. As an added bonus, the owner seems to collect vending machines, so the store is full of vending machines with interesting offerings for sale.
433 E. Mendota Road
West St. Paul, MN
Article on the store:
Here in Florida there’s a small town called Wewahitchka where the best kind of Tupelo Honey can be bought! It’s really some tasty honey that has a slight orange flavor to it. Get some if you can!
Anyway, once you find the guy who sells this honey, you just drive through his gate, and go up to his porch where he has all of the honey set out in all the different sized bottles. There’s a box to put your money in, and thats all there is to it.
He sure does have a lot of trust in people, but then again it is a small town, and he really has some good stuff too!
I believe this is his website: http://www.lltupelohoney.com/
I’m not sure if they’re still doing it, but for a few years recently the busiest branches of high-street newsagent chain WH Smith had a bucket to drop change in for people who wanted to pick up a newspaper but couldn’t wait in the queue.
Another Country English Books in Berlin has a frig full of beer and you just help yourself and put the money in a cup on top, and on Fridays there is a big dinner and at the end of the night or early morning you just pay for what you ate and drank in a cup on the desk or hunt someone down if you need more change then is in the cup.
When I made my engineering studies (in France), several clubs shared a room in the school. There was a fridge in that room that was regularly filled with drinks by volunteers who bought them using money from the clubs. There was a box in the fridge where you were supposed to put 50 cents everytime you took a can. Clubs made a (small) benefit from the sales. As far as I know, the system worked very well.
That was a double honor system : everybody trusted volunteers for keeping the fridge full and everybody trusted everybody for paying their drinks (and for not taking away the box full of coins). There was sometimes as much as 30 or 40 euros in there. A lot for students.
I must add that there was always at least one representant of the clubs in the room. But he/she was never watching the fridge, and even so, it would have been easy to steal a drink by pretending you were putting a coin in the box.
A restaurant in St Kilda (Melbourne) has a pricing policy of: pay what you want to. They’ve been around for a few years.
I own a 7eleven in a small town in the Sierra Nevadas. One night the new graveyard clerk popped open a vodka bottle about 3 am and had passed out behind the counter by 4:30. When the morning person came in, there were about fifteen piles of money on the counter. Upon watching the videotape, you could see customers come up to the counter, lean over to see him on the floor, and leave whatever they owed right there on the counter. Several of them even made themselves change out of piles of money left by a previous customer. Near as we can tell, everybody paid pretty much exactly what they owed (plus tax). Nobody stole a thing, not even the money sitting there in plain sight. I love living in this town. Oh yeah, he was SOOOO fired.
There are several honor system fruit stands around Ojai as well. One gentleman even sells fruit trees. It’s a strange and wonderful place.
Yay, Ojai! This is but one example of how lovely it is to live here in Shangri La. The honor system and the Golden Rule “rule” here. :)
There is an honor system golf course in Port Kent, New York that my father, uncle and I frequent. Every once in a while there is someone staffing the clubhouse. There is a hole in the door of the main building where you place your payment. It works very well, except that you cannot rent clubs if you go when there is no staff.
#68, I must say that is the most entertaining account of the honor system at work. ;p I’ve been sharing it incredulously with friends today! ;p
My mom lives in SLC, UT area and goes out to a rural-ish goat dairy farm every couple weeks just to buy from their honor system store. She calls her order in ahead, and they pack it up for her and leave it in the cooler with a total. Or you can go in and pick out what you want, total it yourself, and put the money in the till.
My local culture hero here in western NC is an elderly man named Walter who runs Walter’s Garden — the 7 or so acres surrounding his modest home are densely planted with flowers and vegetables. The flowers are sold on a you-pick basis, the vegetables he picks and leaves in baskets under his carport. Prices are posted, there’s a scale for the vegetables, and money goes in a bucket — make your own change. I don’t imagine he makes anything like a living from selling zinnias for 35 cents (3.50 per dozen) and tomatoes for $1 a pound, but he probably makes spending money, and he must just really and truly love working in his garden, right? I think he’s got it made. I usually round up to the nearest dollar when I’m paying — something about being trusted makes me eager to pay extra.
#77 I thought the exact same thing.
There’s a chain of grocery stores in western Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio called Giant Eagle that actually has a few honor systems in it.
First, all of the self-serve donuts and baked goods, you just pile in a bag and for as long as I’ve been alive every cashier will just take your word for what you put in the bag. It could be 2 bagels or 6 rolls, they’ll just ring it up as you say it.
The second is the large bulk candy and spice sections. There’s a little coin box that if you want to take some candy to drop in a nickle or a quarter. When I was young I remember it was 1 piece for a nickle and 3 for a dime, but these days some of them don’t even have prices! Just put in what you think you should.
Also the spices you weigh yourself, print up a price tag and set it up. There’s nothing stopping you from printing up a .10 sticker and slapping it on $5 worth of something.
Finally, at least in my experience, I’ve had cashiers take my word on what something should cost if it doesn’t ring up properly.
A few months ago I was buying a Lion candy bar. The candy didn’t ring up, the girl asked me how much it was and I said I honestly didn’t know… She then asked me what I thought was fair, so I guessed a dollar, she agreed and rang it up a such.
The newspaper kiosk at the north end of the town hall in Orford, Suffolk also uses an honor system, and has done for many years.
This was a few years ago, but I recall a diner in Hearst, Ontario (the Moose Capital of Canada) where you ordered your meal from one server and then told the cashier on your way out what you had for breakfast to find out what you owed.
It does seem to be a small-town phenomenon.
Wall Drug in Wall SD still sells coffee for a nickel self serve and honor system with a stack of cups next to the big coffee pot and a wood box with a slot
Enjoy the journey
I live here in Western, NC as well. A lot of folks have those types of trusting systems. One of the “big guys” has one I love. The Candlewood Suites has (or had, they have recently been bought out) an honor room, where you walk in, and they have all sorts of groceries like snacks, drinks, sandwiches, fruit and the like, and you gather everything you want, you HAND WRITE what you got and what room number you’re in on a piece of paper, drop it in a box, and just take what you want with you. In the morning, when you check out, it’s just added to your room. And it’s cheap prices, too, not overinflated hotel rates. WONDERFUL amenity.
Menominee, MI has an honor-system golf driving range. They collect golf balls with their cart every day and fill buckets.
They leave the buckets in a shed with a video camera on it and a price on a sign – $5 per bucket. Put your money in the slot, and take a bucket. It’s been up for years – seems to work well.
I used to work in a secure building on a military base, where everyone had at least a Secret level security clearance, with armed guards in the lobby and security cameras in all of the hallways – and as I recall they had to take out the honor system snack box due to ongoing theft problems.
On the other hand, I visited New Zealand in ’99 and the honor system seemed to be alive and well there. I drove up to a nice resort in the Marlborough Sounds, and after the owner showed me a room and I said I’d take it, he just asked for a name to put in the book. That was it; no ID, no credit card, no deposit, and I can’t recall getting a key – though there might have been one in the room. When it came time to check out, I had to remind them that I’d bought some groceries from their store and still owed them money for those.
yeah, WH Smith does it all over the place in the UK. My dad still always qeued for the till for 5 minutes though :o| no idea how many people use it or not though. don’t think i’ve ever actually seen people stick money in one.
Izzy’s, the best corned beef in the world, uses the honor system at their downtown Cincinnati location. There is table service (wait staff, etc.), but you go to a register to pay. There, they ask what you had, did you have cheese, etc.
There is a local radio personality who occasionally pitches in, waiting tables (I’m not sure of the full story). If a table isn’t leaving fast enough after finishing eating during the lunch rush, he’ll buy their lunch to get them out the door.
There’s a self-pick flower stand in a field next to the train station in Edingen (a small town in Germany between Heidelberg and Mannheim). Somebody plants flowers pretty much continuously during the warm weather season, and people can just clip them from the garden and put money in a metal box. Seems to work surprisingly well (or at least I’ve never seen them all vanish). Of course the trains which pass through the town are also on the honor system (I’ve had my ticket checked less than once per year).
I remember buying a quartz crystal on the honor system. The best part was the quartz was at the top of a hill, and the quarter you dropped into the slot rolled through a very long pipe to the bottom, making a very pleasant plinking sound as it went down.
@17 – Cori, I think you’ve got the psychological reasoning in one. We like feeling trusted, for the most part, and in a fairly low-risk situation, I’d bet the over-payers far outweigh the cheats.
@23 – Interesting how those entrusted with high-level clearances can’t work the honor system. It reminds me of a great “Simpsons” scene:
Smithers: “But absolute power corrupts!”
Mr. Burns: “Absolutely.”
I’m from Italy, honestly I have never seen an honor payment method here, except for candles in the curches.
On the other hand, when I was visiting a friend in Denmark, I saw a cart left on the border of the street (close to Elsinor) with different kinds of vegetables on it. You could choose, weight and leave the exact amount of money.
Here in Munich, so many things are on the honor system: All public transportation, all newspaper machines, fields of flowers, veggie stands during each season. The thing is, it totally works. No one cheats the systems, by and large. People here have a high regard for honesty. Crime is virtually non-existent. People actually take pride in paying their taxes here – and also in voting. Voting is big time. I was talking to a few Germans about the recent Munich mayoral election. There was something like an 80% turnout of registered voters…and they were disgusted with how low the turnout was.
In order to have an honor system, you first have to have honor.
There’s a book store in Raleigh, NC called Reader’s Corner whose whole outside front wall is covered with book shelves filled with books for sale on the honor system. They tend to mostly keep the cheaper ones with little or no resale value there and the more expensive ones inside, but still, it’s pretty nice. You can see it on Google street view if you want.
Even more impressive to me is the Peanuts and Corn record label’s honor system mp3 store. Rather than set up a complicated system with limited access to downloads or some such, they simply put the download link up and then you’re on your honor to pay for them. I admire it for several reasons:
Anyway, I’d urge people who like quality hip-hop to support them. The record label is basically just Mcenroe’s means of making albums he produces available. Thus far only some of them are also available as mp3s, but hopefully that will increase over time.
I stayed at a hostel in Polebridge, Montana, right next to Glacier National Park. When I arrived, no one was around and I just found a little note that read, “Make yourself at home, beds are upstairs. If you don’t see someone before you go, please leave your money on the desk by the door.”
(I did see the people running the hostel before I left)
WH Smith have more or less abandoned the honour box system, primarily at railway stations, because it was so heavily abused, with people paying for papers with Euro and other European coins, buttons and other small round things.
Both the Manchester Metrolink and Newcastle Metro fall into the ‘honour based ticketing’ category, with open stations and machine based ticketing. Both suffer from a fair amount of abuse but both also hefty ‘standard fares’ of Â£80. On the branch of the Metrolink that I use, the ticket inspectors change their tactics regularily, and used to wait at an isolated station on the line (originally used just for changing lines, and only having had entrances and exits added in recent years) and throw people without tickets off the train for a long walk into the city centre. A lot of people still take the risk.
First post on Boing Boing!
Here in Minneapolis, the light rail train system works pretty much on the honor system. There are ticket machines at the stations, but no gates, turnstyles, or employees checking who gets on the train.
Occasionally, the Transit Police will get on and walk the train cars to check riders for tickets but that’s it. The fine is over $100 if you get caught without a ticket and I’ve seen a few people get pulled off the train, but all in all, it’s a great system for us!
Also, the trains are pretty and shiny!
There was a farmer in Kenosha, WI who set out a trailer full of hay bales..bails? I loved the sign: $2 each. Leave money in attached tin.
I suppose it worked out fine for the guy because I saw the trailer back out there last season.
I worked for six years in an amazing independent bookstore called Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, Kentucky. Our newspapers used to be stacked outside our door before we opened, and people were pretty good about using the wooden box we’d put out for payment. We had to stop that though, because it became increasingly common to find that all our papers had disappeared before the first bookseller arrived. We figured they were being sold by the entrepreneurial homeless guy on the corner.
Wife and I traveled to Salt Spring Island (west of Vancouver, BC, Canada) and shopped the art galleries. Found one shop, open and unstaffed, up on top of a mountain. There was thousands of dollars in art on the walls and the cashbox was stocked w/ over a hundred bucks and a note, “pay for purchases here.” We never saw hide or hair of the merchant.
We picked out a nice little piece, paid the requested thirty dollars, and went on our merry way.
Public transit in Europe works mostly on the honor system, but the main reason behind it is that it is more efficient and cost effective. The cost behind installing and maintaining turnstyles and the like outweighs the losses of the few people who break the system. Turnstyles also restrict traffic flow and cause delays in deaprture for busses. Also, like speeding tickets, if the municipal system needs more money, they increase the frequency of spot checks. I saw this in Germany usually around the end of months.
But my favorite European honor system is the Cafe near the University of Munich called “CAFE” on the sign, actually callled CafÃ© Schneller.
You enter, tell the woman which piece of Cake you want, get it, then head to a table. From there you order your drinks. You pay on your way out and you tell them what you had. They don’t write it down, they take your word for it. At first it seemed a bit complicated, later it was the reason I loved it so. (Or maybe it was the Kaffee und Kuchen..)
Dante Hicks: Theoretically, people see money on the counter, and no one around, they think they’re being watched.
Veronica: Honesty through paranoia.
Some people have mentioned public transport systems which have the odd ticket inspector who will fine you if you don’t have a ticket. That’s not really an honor system, when you think about it.
Wow, that Sunday NY Times must be a fat paper. 5 bucks! I hope it has a lot of comics. (Left coaster here, and not a paper reader anyway)
In summers, you can still find vegetable stands in the rural areas around Ithaca, NY that operate on a “honor system” method.
I don’t know if it’d be fully “honors system” or not, but to pay for your meal at a fish taco stand in Los Feliz (LA, CA) you go to the cashier and tell him or her what you ate (as opposed to paying when you order or getting a bill from someone). Once after being half-way home, my wife and I realized we’d screwed up; we’d been bigger pigs then we thought and had to turn around and go pay the difference.
So then, we could all somehow contribute to the Good by simple acts of trust – as opposed to acts of honesty – by using the honour system as much and as often as possible.
If instead of yard sales/garage sales, craigslist, charity donations (which are usually associated with some dubious religion) we all strove to have small honour sales of trivial items we could increase the overall potential for good karma by giving people the opportunity to be honest. Interesting that the primary good being wrought would the self-confirmation of honesty by the purchaser of some trifle, not the warm glow the vendor gets from a full jar of change.
My high school’s kitchen adopted an honor system for buying items that weren’t behind the counter. There was a jar to place your money in.
Sometimes you would hear some students talk about stealing, but I do not think that it happened often because I hear that they still have the system going. I was very surprised as to how well it worked though, it made me feel different about the students I went to school with.
We have a light rail that runs on the same system as the one mentioned in #33 in my home town – but it’s jersey city nj…. Still, most people do buy tickets. To my surprise, I might add :).
stephen king did this with one of his books in 1999-2000 that he released chapter-to-chapter.
you didn’t have to pay, but if X% didn’t, he’d stop releasing chapters.
didn’t work out in the end.
Bart’s Books, YAY! Been 2 long btween visits 2 Ojai, 4 me, dammit.
#64, Sean Blueart, who buys 23K gold leaf on credit.
Good for you that they trust you to buy on credit, but no, that doesn’t count as an honor system. You’re buying on credit. You got a bill. I’m sure they know exactly how much you owe them at every point in time. If you were to forget to pay them, or to mistakenly write the check for a wrong amount, they will phone you.
An honor system means the seller relies on the buyer to be honest. Because the seller relies on the buyer to be honest, he/she does not check.
I also do not consider as “honor system”, the examples above where you buy public transport tickets from a machine, and there are no turnstyles, and people rarely check whether you have a ticket. The fact that you have a ticket shows that you are not being trusted on your honor alone. Part of the incentive to pay comes from the risk of a fine and embarrassment of being caught without a ticket. If it truly relied on your honesty, there would be no need for any ticket or inspectors. You’d simply drop your coins into a slot, and nobody will check whether you actually paid the correct amount (or any amount for that matter).
Every year I stay at the Candlewood Suites in Tempe Arizona while visiting friends. They have an honor system for the exceedingly well-stocked guest convenience store, which has just about anything one could want from fresh fruit, candy and sodas to actual meal-preparation ingredients and detergents (the suites have kitchens and refrigerators). It seems to work quite well, as for the past four years that convenience store has only gotten better-stocked. As a resident of the Los Angeles area, I was admittedly surprised my first time seeing this. I’ve certainly never seen the like anywhere in southern California. Kudos to Candlewood for showing that yes – it is indeed possible to have people live UP to expectations instead of down.
In a scruffy burg outside Cincinnati named Hartwell, someone has been sharpening saws and chainsaws using the honor system for 30 years.
Put your saws in the box on his porch, come back a week later and pick up your perfectly sharpened blades. An envelope is taped to your saw with an amount due hand written on it. Put the money in the envelope and away you go.
He’s sharpened over 100 pieces for me. I’ve never met him.
Needles, CA has an old camping trailer on Route 66 that sells fresh honey on the honor system. Appears to have been open for years.
You’re really Stephen King, right?
The island of Kauai, in Hawaii, is covered with unattended papaya stands — put your 25 cents in the box please.
There are several honor system vegetable stands along quiet country roads in the area where I spent my childhood summers in South-Western Finland. The owner of one stand says that they generally end up with more money than expected: buyers assume that there’s a certain amount of theft, feel bad for the farmers, and leave extra money to compensate. Also, the money goes into a cookie jar, so it’d be easy to steal that too, but it never happens.
I wouldn’t say that a public transport system works on the honor system if there are occasional inspections and fines: I think the fear of fines and public humiliation is what counts there.
In my hometown of Williamson, NY most of the sweet-corn stands are honor system. I remember only one incident where someone tried to steal corn, and that was big a mistake as the stand belonged to the town judge. :-o
> I usually round up to the nearest dollar when I’m paying — something about being trusted makes me eager to pay extra.
As opposed to being treated like you’re not to be trusted like in music with DRM, where one isn’t enclined to pay extra.
Very true. I found the honours system on the Danish isle Bornholm delightful and rewarding, and the cherries were good, too. They just had a plastic container out where we took our change from. Very cool.
When I was a farm kid in California, we would have a letterbox nailed to a fencepost in the corner of the alfalfa field , and when someone wanted to buy some hay, they would put the money in the letterbox and load the hay onto a truck. Occasionally a single bale would disappear, but we would sell tens of tons of hay at a time to people we never even saw.
In New York City , most used bookstores have shelves of 1 to 5 dollar books sitting un attended on the sidewalk. You’ve got to go inside to pay, because the alternative would be like leaving a can of cash on a NYC sidewalk. Lots of coffee shops in Brooklyn have a jar of cash next to a pile of newspapers , mainly so that the newspaper buyers don’t slow down the sale of coffee.
A few years ago I read about a coffee-and-doughnut stand in New York City that had an adjacent table with a pile of quarters on it so people could make their own change.
I imagine they probably lost a little bit of money that way, but probably made some too, from people deciding not to bother to pick up their quarters. Not to mention the savings in time of not having to work a cash register and count out change on every transaction.
#25 You beat me to mentioning Izzys…. damn you… now I got nothin
You don’t throw the money over the wall, you put it in the money box on the door.
And when I read the headline I just assumed it meant bart’s books. Plus I didn’t even know local hero was still around.
Farmers in rural NC use the honor system all the time for fruits and vegetables. Here’s a photo of an honor system watermelon stand (not that the jar was full of money: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bunchofpants/33476006/
The melon I bought was one of the tastiest I’ve ever had.
Thanks for sharing these wonderful stories. These are really uplifting!
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