Honest Tea Declares Chicago Most Honest City, New York Least Honest

July 25, 2011 BY danariely

From the Huffington Post:

Would you still pay a dollar for Honest Tea if you could take it for free? On July 19, the company conducted an Honest Cities social experiment—it placed unmanned beverage kiosks in 12 American cities. There was a box for people to slip a dollar in, but there were no consequences if they did not pay.

Turns out, Americans (or at least Americans who like Honest Tea) are pretty gosh darn honest. Chicago was the most honest city, with 99 percent of people still paying a dollar. New York was the least honest city—only 86 percent coughed up the buck.

The full results:

Chicago: 99%
Boston: 97%
Seattle: 97%
Dallas: 97%
Atlanta: 96%
Philadelphia: 96%
Cincinnati: 95%
San Francisco: 93%
Miami: 92%
Washington, DC: 91%
Los Angeles: 88%
New York: 86%

Honest Tea is donating all of the money collected, nearly $5,000, to Share Our Strength, City Year and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. The company is matching the total, bringing the total donated to $10,000.

What kinds of things might have changed this very honest behavior?

Here are some open questions, or maybe future experiments to try:

1) What if the box for paying was not transparent?  If it was opaque, then no one could see if the person in front of the box was really paying and there was no evidence that many people have paid before (based on the number of dollars that were there)
2) What if people approached the booth one by one and without being observed by anyone?
3) What if the experiment was conducted at night? What if people were slightly drunk?
4) What if there was an actor who would go by and take a bottle without paying?  Would it make the other people be less honest? (I think so)
5) Who is more likely to be dishonest, people who come as individuals, or people who come in groups?
6) When it is sunny and people are happier, are they also more honest?

What is clear is that there are lots of interesting questions here.