The Washington Post

An exercise in honesty and social voyeurism

As far as social experiments go, the one currently underway on Dupont Circle is a voyeur’s paradise. Bethesda-based Honest Tea has installed pop-up stands in Washington and 11 other cities — employee-less pop-up stands in which passersby are asked to drop $1 into the lock box for each bottle of tea they take.

The best part is that you can watch the corruption from the comfort of your computer chair, sort of like Marion Barry’s crack bust but with more legal stimulants. Honest Tea has installed a camera that provides a live video stream. (Click on the link above to watch.) The only thing missing from this technology, of course, is a small microphone and a taser to call out and zap all offenders, but then again, that’s sort of sliding into uncomfortable “Running Man” analogies, right?

The company conducted the same experiment last year, and the District came in second place among the “participating” cities, with a 93 percent honesty rate.

So far this year, Washington is among the bottom feeders with a 91 percent honesty rating, behind San Francisco and Seattle (both with 100 percent, probably because folks are, you know, still too sleepy to start cheating anyone), Boston (96 percent), Atlanta (94 percent) and Dallas (94 percent) and Chicago (94 percent). You can watch the “Honesty Tracker” here.

So have we become a more dishonest city in the past 12 months? Has the economy finally caused us to crack? Or perhaps we just need Detroit, Bakersfield, Calif., and other economically depressed cities to take part in this experiment to make us look better? Or maybe we just shouldn’t buy into the notion that a handful of dishonest people represent a city as a whole.

The Honest Tea pop-up stand is in front of the PNC Bank on Dupont Circle until 6 p.m. today.

Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section and as the $20 Diner for the Weekend section, a double duty that requires he ingest more calories than a draft horse.


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