Honor System Farm Stands
Many roadside farm stands in the U.S. are unstaffed. They work on the honor system: take what you want, and pay what you owe.
And today at his farm stand, Cochran says, just as at the donut shop years ago, most customers leave more money than they owe.
That doesn’t surprise social psychologist Michael Cunningham of the University of Louisville who has used “trust games” to investigate what spurs good and bad behavior for the last 25 years. For many people, Cunningham says, trust seems to be at least as strong a motivator as guilt. He thinks he knows why.
“When you sell me something I want and trust me to pay you even when you’re not looking, you’ve made my life good in two ways,” Cunningham tells The Salt. “I get something delicious, and I also get a good feeling about myself. Both of those things make me feel good about the world that I’m in a good place. And I also see you as a contributor to that good as somebody I want to reward. It’s a win win.”
I like systems that leverage personal moral codes for security. But I’ll bet that the pay boxes are bolted to the tables. It’s one thing for someone to take produce without paying. It’s quite another for him to take the entire day’s receipts.