The Famous Honor Till of Swanton Berry Farm Photo: revger/Flickr
Just north of Santa Cruz, California, there's a farm that's famous for its good food and its rather peculiar method of accepting payment. You see, at the Swanton Berry Farm, you're expected to pay what you owe with no one at the counter.
You'd think that people would short the farm all the time, but in reality - even after taking into account thefts and freeloaders - the honor system actually made more money than manned counters.
Deborah Franklin of NPR's food blog The Salt explains the psychology of honor tills:
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."