Honesty Reigns on Boxing Day

As always, we try to bring you the best and latest in honor-payment commerce schemes. Here’s one from a town called Settle in North Yorkshire, England:

A shopkeeper in North Yorkshire who wanted a day off on Boxing Day decided to leave his store open and let his customers help themselves.

Tom Algie, who runs the Practically Everything hardware store in Settle, returned to work at the end of the day to find an honesty box full of money.

“It was stuffed with notes and coins,” said Mr Algie. “There was £187 in it and two euros, which is pretty good.”

Grateful shoppers had also left notes thanking him for trusting them.

That’s from a BBC article; here’s another take, with better pictures, from the Daily Mail.

There used to be some very robust comments at the Daily Mail article, but they seem to have been erased. My guess is that the comments descended into name-calling, since an early round of comments that I read implied that such honesty could only happen in a small town where certain types of people — you know who they are, wink wink — don’t come around.

Here’s another bit from the Daily Mail piece:

[The owner's] note read: “Yes, I have given everyone the day off, including me, so please choose the items you want and place the right money inside, Merry Christmas.”

Customers also left notes saying what goods they had bought, and this, combined with a quick check of his stock, confirmed that Mr. Algie’s trust was not abused.

Instead of being behind the counter, the divorcee had spent the day with his son Joe, 23, and daughter Beth, 18.

I wonder how well Mr. Algie would do if he trusted his customers on a regular basis. One of the things that kept the Bagel Man’s customers honest was the threat that he would pull their precious supply of bagels and donuts if they slipped below an acceptable rate. Are the goods in a hardware store as precious?

(Hat tip: Marcus Fardoe and Rachael Churchill)

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  1. Daniel says:

    Perhaps people feel more honest and giving on Boxing Day, so mistrust is less of an issue.

    An easy way to falsify that claim would be to see how crime and theft rises or falls on say, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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  2. Joe says:

    Unfortunately it wouldn’t work anywhere else, for the simple reason there’s no-one quite like Yorkshire folk.

    It’s true that it’s just a small town mentality though – Settle is really just one main street.

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  3. Bobby G says:

    I have often mused of setting up, say, a gas station that has a fixed profit of the bare minimum (say, $0.01 per gallon) when I get the riches to do so. Maybe have it pay for it’s initial investment then just sell gas at marginal cost. A store that has a pay-for-yourself box might be another idea… could run it like normal until I paid off my initial investment then experiment a little bit. A tough problem would be people who want to pay via credit card… maybe I’d let them keep a tab and then they could come in and pay on the two days a week I man the cash register or something.

    So I’ll let everyone know when I make enough money to retire and drop a huge investment into a business experiment.

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  4. Joe says:

    To further the point:

    “the comments…implied that such honesty could only happen in a small town where certain types of people…don’t come around”

    - I would turn this slightly and suggest that it’s not the “types of people” that make the difference. At some point, if fleetingly, customers in the shop would have considered just taking the items.

    Instead they fear being caught and ostracised in their community. It’s not a case of good or bad people, but what others might think of them (in a small enough town, a man with new a stepladder would be quickly be connected with stepladder theft in the shop).

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  5. English Clergyman says:

    Depending, of course, on the type of small town you live in. Not every small-town is nosy enough that you’d likely get caught. The one I live in might be, sure, but not all are. Different towns have different dynamics.

    I imagine that the store owner knows his customers is a large factor. They like him and will buy from him again, and therefore will feel guilty about having stolen. I don’t think many would have thought about stealing, as Joe suggests, so much as think, “He shouldn’t do that, someone could steal,” without really considering doing it themselves. This is assuming that he has regular and not transitory customers.

    I also imagine some people–though not likely many–will have paid more than what their purchase costs to compensate for goods they assume will have been stolen.

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  6. Laura says:

    “Are the goods in a hardware store as precious?”

    Not until your bathroom floods and you need something *right now!*

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  7. David says:

    There was this one fellow, who talked a certain students’ council into trying a similar system at a students’ hang-out lounge. There were almost three (!) fridges filled with beer, and an honesty box. The amount paid wasn’t even set – the box did end up getting filled with 1€ coins.

    What surprised most of us, that the system has worked ever since. All revenue is spent on buying new beer by whoever happens to be in the mood for it. Catering to about two thousand different people yearly, it is one of the biggest, and useful, pay-as-you-wish systems I have ever heard of. I don’t know if it would work in most places, where the law on serving/selling alcoholic beverages would probably discourage such activity.

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  8. Henry Rothwell says:

    I’ve known a couple of pubs which, after the landlord had turned in for the night, operated on an honesty box system. One was in rural Wales, another in a more populated part of England – both landlords reported that the makeshift ’till’ was always up, never down.
    And Joe’s comments about Yorkshire folk, for an internalional audience, should probably be qualified. Or should it. . .

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