In a guerilla marketing campaign turned social experiment, Maryland-based beverage company Honest Tea tested the honesty of major American cities. The company created popup mobile “Honest Stores” stocking refrigerated ice tea bottles in an unstaffed kiosk, with a sign that asked passersby to pay $1 for each bottle taken. At the end of the day, company executives counted the number of bottles taken and the amount of cash received to see which city was the most honest.
To my surprise, and probably to the surprise of many Bostonians, Boston was the most honest city with a score of 93.3% on the honesty scale. Washington, D.C. was a close second with 93%, followed by San Francisco (91%), and Atlanta and New York (tied at 89%). Chicago and L.A. trailed behind with honesty scores of 78% and 75% respectively
I believe that most people do act ethically, especially when they are being observed, as it is the socially desirable thing to do. If they had known that Honest Tea was recording their actions, I believe all of those cities would have achieved 100% on the honesty scale. However, behaving ethically in a situation when no one is watching you is a lot more challenging, and those who acted ethically can truly consider themselves honest people.
To have a 93.3% honesty ranking is a significant achievement for any city, especially for a city like Boston. We are all well aware that Boston is not a city best known for its hospitality or its generous nature (especially regarding sports teams). Yet Boston was the most honest city. Even cities with lower rankings such as New York and Atlanta still achieved impressive scores. The stereotype exists that city dwellers are rude, inconsiderate, unhelpful, and as a result, dishonest. However, Honest Tea’s social experiment disproves the stereotype to a certain extent, or at least suggests that urban living is not linked to ethical behavior.
Regardless of the social implications of Honest Tea’s marketing stunt, the company has generated a good deal of publicity for its company, and a great deal of publicity for the honest residents of Boston, Massachusetts.