As you’re walking down your city street you see an unmanned kiosk, stocked with bottles of tea. A sign invites you to “Take a bottle. Leave a dollar.” What would you do?

Would you pay for one, and be curious enough to stay and watch what others do?  Many did both. From August 8-18th, in this ingenious 30-city social experiment, Honest Tea was using the honor system to see which city had the most honest people.

Cameras hidden across the street were covering the scenes that were then uploaded for live viewing globally. Ironically I heard about this stunt from Mike Savello of LiveU just before I went to hear Dan Ariely interviewed by Andrew Blau at Global Business Network on his newest book, The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty. This situation matched Ariely’s characterization of the cost/benefit analysis that makes it tempting to rationalize stealing, well, take a bottle…just once.

From your computer you could watch the live action at the Honest Tea kiosks in any city. The results, an Honesty Index, lent themselves to all kinds of odd news angles that the media covers because we wind up talking about the admittedly unscientific results. Are redheads more honest than blondes? What are the least honest cities?

With the Honesty Index, the company cleverly dubbed their results with a label that is instantly tied to their product name, as should we.