Honesty is Still the Best Policy

By Julia Rahn, Ph.D.

Imagine coming to work and already have collected fees, most of which is pure profit, while your business is closed. This is exactly what happens almost every day at a small golf academy in Southwestern Michigan, after the owner, in order to save on staffing costs, initiated an honesty box on the driving range. Golfers wanting to use the range when the pro shop is closed can just grab a bucket of balls, left out the night before, swing away and then drop the designated fee in the honesty box. Reportedly, a 90% success rate on amounts collected is had as compared to when staff collects payment. Furthermore, the honesty policy states that if a golfer does not have cash in hand, he or she can drop it off at another time. On many occasion, fellow golfers come into the pro-shop later in the day to pay for time spent on the range.

Extra cash in hand, minimal setup, no extra staffing costs are the icing on the cake as far as benefits of such an honesty program can bring. In addition, an honesty program generates positive feelings about one’s business, promotes two-way respect, and fosters business and brand loyalty. Furthermore, these benefits are not one time gains, as their effects will multiply and often integrate themselves deep into the soul of a business.

  • Generates Positive Emotions. Pairing positive emotions with products and services is a win-win situation, as folks will more likely remember the experience and want to return. Anytime someone takes action while knowing they are “doing good” or the “right thing”, positive feelings always ensues. Not only have customers “followed the rules” when nobody is watching but they have also stepped up to a higher morality level, living out positive personal and/or community values.

  • Promotes Two-Way Respect. The act of setting out an honesty collection box inherently means you trust and respect your customers and are showing this in a very public way. Opening an honesty box and finding cash or later collecting fees for services already rendered, can only produce additional respect between business owner and customer. Customers will not only sense this respect but also know that this respect was earned, creating yet another feel good situation.    

  • Fosters Customer Loyalty. Creating customer and brand loyalty is one of the keys to success for any business. Inherently, an honesty program clearly conveys the message that the business is dependent on customers doing their part to keep the business afloat. Customers knowing they are a part of a business’ success will keep people coming back.

In addition, to generating all of these benefits between a business and its customer base, honesty programs can be developed to also include employees. This expansion to include employees when developing an honesty program, truly multiplies the possible benefits exponentially. Not only will your business’ environment be filled with more positive emotions, employees will take more ownership in the success of a business, and likely to direct more positive feelings towards their boss or manager. Staff morale is likely to increase and be maintained as your honesty program is developed gets into full working order.

With the benefits clearly laid out, it is now time to create an honesty program. The different types of honesty programs are endless and just require a bit of brainstorming to find the perfect match between your business and your new honesty program. Not all honesty programs are income generating but all produce the listed benefits. Here are a few honesty programs currently in use and some never tried to get you thinking about what might work for your business:

  • Honesty box to collect fees for beverages (hot tea, bottled water, etc.) and treats.

  • Extra penny dish for when customers are in need of one more cent or have an extra cent to give.

  • Free personal supplies to be used as needed in public or employee restrooms.

  • Roadside fruit and vegetable stands with signage asking for cash in exchange for produce.

  • Unstaffed holiday gift wrapping table with collection box for after a present has been wrapped by the shopper.

  • Stock employee refrigerator with healthy prepackaged meals. Once eaten employees leave money covering the cost of food and labor to have this benefit.

  • Costly samples (tile, carpet, fabric, etc.) often go home with customers, trusting loaned-out materials will be returned in a timely manner.

While most, if not all businesses, can be run solely on an honesty box, certainly most businesses can incorporate some type of honesty program to generate positive feelings, promote two-way respect, foster customer loyalty, and improve staff morale. Furthermore, with all of these benefits and ease in execution, you have to ask yourself honestly, why didn’t I think of that?

Read other articles and learn more about Julia Rahn, Ph.D.

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