City Pulse

By Mrinalini Kamath

A few years ago, in San Francisco, a couple of Honest Tea employees decided to test people’s honesty by leaving out bottles of Honest Tea and Honest Ade along with a sign and a locked box, stating that a bottle of tea was $1.

What began as an experiment in one city has now grown to a 12-city, nationwide project. On July 19th, 2011, in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C., Honest Tea once again placed bottles of Honest Tea and Honest Ade next to a securely mounted, clear, locked box and a sign stating that the drink bottles were $1 each and that folks were on the honor system. Unbeknownst to the people picking up bottles, hidden cameras run by were providing live video feed of each city’s experiment to

“We wanted to challenge people to think about how honest Americans are as a whole, particularly when no one is watching,” said Seth Goldman, president and TeaEO of Honest Tea. “It was refreshing to see that most cities were in the 90 percent range,” Goldman added.

90% in most cities. Which cities fell BELOW 90%?

Well, number 11 was Los Angeles and number 12 was…*sigh* New York.

Yeah. With Chicago winning the top slot with a whopping and impressive 99%, The Big Apple came in dead last, at 86% (which isn’t TOO bad a percentage, in my opinion, but I’m pretty biased. I mean, I wouldn’t edit a section called City Pulse for this website if I didn’t love this city, would I?). Actually, the percentage bothers me less than the fact that we came in behind Los Angeles and Washington D.C., cities known for movie stars and politicians. Come on, really?!

On the bright side, the almost $5,000 collected from the honesty experiment is being donated to 3 nationwide, non-profit organizations (and matched by Honest Tea, for a total of $10,000). The organizations are: Share Our Strength, whose mission is to end child hunger in America, City Year, which gathers young people from diverse backgrounds to spend a year working at high-need schools with at-risk students and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy which is creating a network of trails from former railway lines allowing people access to healthier spaces.

If you’re interested in watching footage from the experiment, check out

Originally published August 2011
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