As a Midwesterner, I was not surprised that Chicago ranked first in “honesty” in the social experiment/PR ploy recently conducted by Honest Tea. As someone who has lived in DC for 9 years, our capital’s third-to-last ranking didn’t surprise me much either.
From my favorite local real estate blog Urban Turf:
“On Tuesday, Honest Tea conducted a little social experiment to test the honesty level in various U.S. cities.
In twelve cities, the Bethesda-based company set up stands where bottled iced tea was available at $1 a pop, but there were no employees to monitor whether customers paid or not. There was, however, a live feed via webcam for each city where those who didn’t pay could be caught by the internet-viewing public.
The results are in, and by the standards of this little test, the city with the highest level of trustworthiness is Chicago, where a whopping 99 percent of people that took a bottle of tea paid for it. The test made DC look downright dishonest, though. The city’s pop-up stand was located in Dupont Circle, and only 91 percent of those who took a tea put $1 in the lock box, a percentage that ranked ahead of only Los Angeles and New York City.”
This got me thinking about why DC residents would be less “honest.”
I think this is less about honesty and more about the ease and expectation of getting something for nothing. Here in DC we are pretty used to free stuff. Our zoo is free, our museums are free, and there are a gazillion free receptions, briefings, networking events, and talks, many of which have catered food and drinks.
However, nothing is truly free. The Smithsonian isn’t free, it is financed by the 50% of Americans that pay income taxes.
Our elected officials need to wake up to this- costs don’t disappear, they shift. We in the health policy department see this all the time. When you cut spending in one area of healthcare, you shift the costs elsewhere (either to another provider because the patient goes elsewhere or to another payer). Hence why system reform, not taking the ax to whatever benefit is deemed disposable, will be the only way to slow the growth in spending.
As much as I love popping into museums without opening my wallet- maybe DC residents (who seemingly all work for the government) to learn how a true market works!