Cleveland passes 'honesty test' as Honest Tea company sells beverages downtown

Most pay for drinks using honor system

CLEVELAND - The results aren't final, but Cleveland appears to have passed an unscientific "honesty test".

The social experiment took place Thursday at lunchtime on Cleveland's Public Square and was part of a nationwide marketing campaign by beverage maker, Honest Tea , based in Bethesda, Md.

Representatives of the tea brewer set up a kiosk in front of the new Horseshoe Casino offering their various bottled tea flavors for $1.

However, there was no clerk or cash register. Instead, "honor system" signs were put up and a drop box for payment was prominently displayed. The Honest Tea employees remained in the area, but were unseen as they observed the sales - or thefts - and collected data.

NewsChannel5 cameras discreetly videotaped the experiment and did not catch anyone making off with beverages without paying. In fact, a large pile of dollar bills had accumulated by early afternoon from dozens of people honoring Honest Tea's honor system.

Company spokesperson Kelly Schwaberow said they expected to go through as many as 200 bottles of tea and most of them would be paid for.

"This is our third year of doing this," said Schwaberow. "And we've found that about 86 to 87 percent are honest."

Cleveland was not included in the previous year's test. Schwaberow said 30 cities were involved in this week's 2012 sampling. Schwaberow did confirm that not everyone had paid for their drinks at the Cleveland site.

"We actually had a guy this morning -- he kind of saw us, and he came over and asked permission to steal a bottle," she said, ironically. "Even though he stole a bottle, he was honest about it."

The results of the Honest Tea test in various cities will be released next week.

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