Trust Your Customers... And They Do Amazing Things...

from the treat-them-like-criminals,-however... dept

The entertainment industry has a long and sorry history of treating customers like criminals, despite plenty of evidence that suggests that treating customers like criminals makes them more likely to act like criminals, rather than less. SteveD writes in with an example out of the UK, where the proprietor of a small shop decided that his store should be open the day after Christmas, but he didn't want his employees to have to work -- and he didn't want to work either. So, he opened up the shop, put up a note and a box for people to put money in and left the shop entirely unstaffed. It actually worked out well. He made a fair bit of money and didn't find any damage or products stolen.

This reminds me, quite a bit, of the Freakonomics story about the "Bagel Man" who delivered bagels to a variety of office buildings around Washington DC and left out boxes for people to pay. On average, he ended up with around 90% of the money requested, and some interesting lessons in which types of people and companies were more likely to be honest. There's also a scene in the Kevin Smith movie Clerks where the lead character Dante does the same thing -- though his explanation for why it works is: "Theoretically, people see money on the counter, and no one around, they think they're being watched." And, as his girlfriend notes, this is "honesty through paranoia." I'm not sure which it is, but it seems that there's ample evidence that honest people don't need to be "kept honest" and treating your customers like criminals isn't necessarily a very good idea.
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Filed Under: criminals, customers, trust

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  1. identicon
    David, 6 Jan 2009 @ 3:44am


    I`m in the UK and also read this charming story. I`m in complete agreement that it would very much depend on the type of neighbourhood. A small community would probably know any villains likely to abuse the privilege and I doubt whether the scenario could be repeated once word got out beyond the local area. It's an old saying, but honesty pays. I once found a phone that had been left in a public area and, as it was still switched on, rang a couple of the contacts to try and find out whose it was. Came up with the owner's father and, as luck would have it, he was still in the area. When I returned it, he insisted on giving me a reward, against my protestations. I like to think that someone would do the same for me, but that's probably wishful thinking! I drive people around for a living and anything that gets left in the car instantly gets stored safely until such time as it is claimed or I can deduce who lost it. However, if something is left in the back of the car and a less-than-honest passenger then gets in afterwards and "acquires" said item, I have no way of knowing, although a passenger did hand me a compact digital camera recently, so my faith is still holding up!

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