Utne Blogs > Community


Building connections and resisting oppressions.

The Tea Leaves Don’t Lie


Honest Tea tests the nation’s honesty in its fifth social experiment.

Since 2009, Honest Tea has been examining how trustworthy we are by setting up kiosks containing bottles of tea with an asking price of a dollar. The catch was that no one was at the booths to collect the money, so you could just walk away without paying.

Recently the company set up the kiosks in every state to take a national temperature of our honesty, and came away with some interesting conclusions. By posting undercover employees around the stalls, they were able to find out geographic averages as well as statistics based on gender and physical appearance. Women were 95 percent honest whereas men came in a bit lower at 91 percent. In terms of hair, blondes were the most honest and the bald were the least. The overall national average clocked in at 92 percent. The undercover observers also witnessed a few intriguing incidents including a man in a suit who took 13 bottles (in Boston) and someone attempting to take the money box itself (in West Virginia). However it was an experiment that ended on an encouraging note. Honest Tea co-founder Seth Goldman commented, “It’s refreshing. Because based on what you hear and read, there appears to be a lot of distrust in the country. And there shouldn’t be, because we found that, overall, people are more honest than we give them credit for … and that’s a positive story.”

You can fill in a description of yourself here to discover where your honesty ranks, based on the national averages established during the experiment. 


Photo by Reena Mahtani, licensed under Creative Commons.