Last month I took a photo of an honor payment system at a bookstore in Ojai, California. On a related note, here's an article about the City Café Bakery in Kitchener, Ontario, which uses an honor payment system and almost never gets cheated.(Photo from MyWorldReviews.com) City Café doesn’t have Interac or accept credit cards. Neither will you see a cash register in the bakery. Instead, customers add up how much they owe themselves and drop their money into a fare box from an old bus.
“I liked the idea of simplifying things and ... the honour system made a whole lot of sense,” [owner John] Bergen says. “What irritated me about going into Tim Hortons, for example, was waiting in line for something as simple as getting a donut and a coffee. So the thought was, someone can pour his own coffee, grab his own bagel, cut it himself, throw the money in, and walk out. We don’t touch 60 per cent of the transaction.”
Because it is up to the customers to total their purchases, Bergen has simplified the cost structure.
“Everything is rounded off to the nearest quarter with taxes included where applicable,” he says. “So every desert is $1.50 (tarts, brownies, and date squares), every pizza lunch is $5, every beverage is $1.25, every loaf of bread is $2.75 (Italian sourdough, multi-grain, and raisin bread on weekends), croissants are $1 each, and bagels are three for $2 (plain, sesame, and multi-grain).”
The bakery conducts audits every six months and Bergen says only once did things come up short.
“Our theory is that two per cent of our sales are being ripped off. ‘Ripped off’ in the sense that there are people who forget to pay or they make a mistake in paying, and then there are people who deliberately don’t pay. And every so often we have to kick somebody out that we know hasn’t been paying,” he says. “But at the same time we figure we’re being overpaid by three per cent. Some people come in and want a $2.75 loaf of bread, but they see we’re busy so they throw $3 in and walk out. Or, although we discourage tips, some people still give them to us. But because the staff is paid well (the average wage is $15.50 an hour), the tips go into the general pot.”