The honour system; what a concept!
‘The Vault’ in Valley City, North Dakota, serves coffee, tea and pastries, just like any other coffee shop. But here’s the difference: there’s no one there to do the serving! The owners have complete faith in the honesty of the people who walk through their doors, so they haven’t hired any employees.
“The Vault is self-serve,” declares the official website. “Everything is priced by hand, there are no price scanners. Just keep a track of your purchases and pay before you leave the counter area. There is a credit card reader and a deposit slot for checks and cash.” Customers simply walk in, make their own coffee, pay for it, and hang out for as long as they like.
It sure is a big gamble, but owners David Brekke and his wife Kimberly don’t seem to be too worried. When they opened the shop last October, it made complete sense to have people serve themselves and rely on the honor system. They have yet to break even, but that’s not because people are stealing.
“The thing that’s amazing is that people have been extremely honest,” said David. “When I add up how much has been taken and how much is in the till at the end of the day, people are 15 percent more generous than thieving.”
“It’s really very convenient to use,” said Madeline Luke, another customer. “I hope that they financially make it, but most people in town I think are pretty honest.” Valley City has a population of just over 6,000; it is a small community where everybody knows each other. So it’s not very likely that they’re going to steal in full view of other customers.
The act of paying on the honor system also makes people feel good about their honesty; it’s a great opportunity for self-affirmation. David, who spent 3.5 years converting the former bank into the coffee shop, didn’t realize how unique his concept was; he just thought it made sense. Later, he found out on the internet that there “really isn’t anything else like it”.
“Would an honor system coffee shop work anywhere?” asks the website. “Probably not,” is their answer. “The good people of Valley City make it possible.”
Yeah; likely only workable in small, culturally and ethnically homogeneous places, where most have high moral standards.