Honest Tea’s “social experiment” ranks PSU among most honest universities
Honest Tea set up shop at PSU, but they didn’t leave anyone to guard the cash box. With no one to hold them accountable for paying, PSU students overwhelmingly chose to pay for their tea.
Originally a social experiment to test how honest Americans are, the Honest Tea corporation has branched into testing how honest universities are. Their “tea shop,” located in the South Park Blocks, consisted of tea advertised at $1 and a cash box where students could decide whether to pay or not.
As it turns out, the honor system actually worked. When the money was tallied against the amount of tea taken, it was found that close to 97 percent of PSU students paid, making PSU among the most honest universities. Some of the other universities tested include University of San Diego, who is 96 percent honest, the University of Washington at 95 percent, UCLA at 94 percent and Louisiana State University at 88 percent.
These numbers correspond to the national results of the experiment, which showed that Americans are more honest than they would first appear.
With all the corruption seen in America today, it’s easy to generalize Americans as dishonest or, at the very least, hypocritical.
Valuing honesty doesn’t mean anything unless it is practiced; you can’t ask for honesty in others if you can’t adhere to it yourself.
However, Honest Tea found that Americans really do practice what they preach. Chicago is ranked the most honest city at 99 percent, followed by Boston, Seattle and Dallas at 97 percent, and Atlanta at 96 percent.
Honest Tea originally designed these tea shops as a social experiment. The goal was to see what people really would do if they thought no one was watching. They describe it as “a challenge to all consumers to think of how honest we are as society,” a principle they try to maintain as a company.
All of the proceeds from their “tea shop” experiments go to City Year, a nonprofit organization designed to bring young adults together to volunteer in the community. They are also consistently ranked among the greenest and most socially responsible companies.
But what do these “tea shops” really say about honesty? PSU students are a very particular subset of Portlander that are especially seen as a liberal, eco-friendly generation of students trying to change the world one capitalist regime at a time. This view is consistent with the idea that honesty isn’t just something that people demand of others. It is something that they uphold in themselves.
It follows that students with a liberal, eco-friendly mindset would also value honesty and, therefore, be more honest in their transactions. That would mean that the 97 percent honesty at PSU is consistent.
There is the possibility that this view of PSU students only pertains to the tea drinking population though, and that they are not an accurate representation of the student body, who might not be so honest. This view is consistent with the idea that most people aren’t as honest as they would like to appear to be and makes New York City’s 86 percent honesty rate more reasonable.
This may not be an accurate representation of honesty when you take into account people’s motivations. An unmanned shop draws attention to itself, so there could also be more peer pressure towards honesty. Honesty with an audience isn’t an accurate representation of honesty.
Something worth a dollar is also quite negligible. Surely most people can afford a dollar and would be expected to pay. The results might be different if iPods were left unattended. Then, one can assume the honesty rates might be much different.
Honest Tea’s representation of honesty does provide a starting point to talk about how honest a place is. There are always other factors that play into why people make certain decisions. The importance of a social experiment, as opposed to a psychological experiment that would be able to gauge cause and effect, is to highlight something about society. To establish a point at which to create conversation and get people to question their actions.
The Honest Tea experiment does serve as a basis to highlight honesty in this circumstance.
Not only are PSU students honest, but the American people also uphold this principle. In a country that oftentimes seems to be defined by greed and corruption, when it comes to something as simple as tea, honesty really is valued.