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Beverage company test shows honesty on rise

Maybe it's the improving economy, or maybe it's world events making us feel a bit more compassionate towards our fellow citizens. But for whatever reason, a new and non-scientific survey suggests Americans were a bit more honest this year.

Honest Tea, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola (KO), has released the results of its annual National Honesty Index. Earlier this summer, the company set up unattended stands of cold Honest beverages and snacks at 60 locations across all 50 states and in Washington, D.C. A sign asked would-be consumers to pay $1 per item on the honor system.

There was also an online component: Facebook users were asked to share an inspirational quote on their Facebook page in exchange for a coupon.

Overall, the social experiment found that, of the more than 28,000 in-person and online participants, 95 percent were honest and paid something, up from 92 percent last year.

For the record, Hawaii, Alabama, Alaska and Tennessee were found to be the most honest states, all sharing a 98 percent honesty rating. The four least honest states were Montana (89 percent honest), Idaho (88 percent), Minnesota (85 percent) and Rhode Island (83 percent).

Other highlights from the National Honesty Index:

  • Washington, D.C. was the most improved city. The Nation's Capital rose to a 96 percent honesty rating; up 16 percentage points from last year.
  • For the second year in a row, Honolulu, Hawaii scored 100 percent.
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota and Providence, Rhode Island tied for the largest drop in year-to-year honesty, falling 12 percentage points each to 81 percent and 80 percent, respectively.
  • Women once again proved to be slightly more honest than men, with an honesty average of 95 percent to 93 percent.

Paying by the honor system is a well-established tradition at some American businesses. In 2010 Panera Bread (PNRA) opened a non-profit outletin St. Louis, where customers receive a suggested bill and donate what money they can or, in lieu of money, donate their time.

And in Valley City, North Dakota, The Vault Coffee Shop and Bakery bills itself as "the world's only unmanned self service coffee shop."

The store has a credit card reader, a money slot for checks and cash, and cameras for security.

"Many people ask how we are not being robbed blind," notes the company's web site. "A lessor factor is that we have cameras -- though their primary purpose is to help provide a safe atmosphere. More important is the good will of the people of Valley City.

"Generally speaking the people of Valley City are more generous than dishonest," the company adds. "In the first seven months of being open we averaged 15 percent more than our asking prices."

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