I love this little promotion being run by the folks over at Honest Tea right now, aiming to find the "Most Honest City in America". In short, the promo people set up unmanned Honest Tea coolers in several American cities, with bottles for sale for $1 each under the honor system. Of course, they set up hidden cameras nearby, so that they could track how many people actually paid the dollar for the teas they took. Then they summarized the results.
As of this morning, the site indicates that the overall rate of honesty is a staggering 94%, with Chicago leading the way at 99% (followed closely behind by Boston, Seattle, and Dallas at 97%) and Los Angeles and New York bringing up the rear at 88% and 86%, respectively (I'm shocked... absolutely shocked to see those two cities bringing up the rear).
The study appears to be ongoing, but in general I'm honestly pleasantly surprised by how honest people have been. Maybe it's because they assume they're being watched (watching some of these people's reactions is priceless), and maybe it's just a happy miracle of the particular street corners (and cities) where they happened to set up their coolers.
Either way, I think that this Honest Tea promotion is a clever bit of marketing, a fascinating social experiment, and just plain fun to watch, even if somewhat limited from a scientific perspective (it's not exactly a perfectly controlled study on human honesty). Good work, Honest Tea.