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Honor system experiment: Honest Tea kiosk is unstaffed

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There's no such thing as a free tea. Or is there?

As part of a marketing strategy guised as a social experiment, Honest Tea has set up an unmanned tea kiosk at an undisclosed location in Minneapolis, stocked with cold beverages clearly marked with a $1 price. Patrons are directed to pay on the honor system.

The city is one of 50 cities in 50 states that are part of what the company calls a light-hearted social experiment, which runs through mid-August, Honest Tea says.

The central question: Will people pay for what they take?

The company plans to answer that by monitoring the stands with an unobtrusively placed staffer. The company then plans to create a "national honesty index" ranking of cities from the most honest, to the least.

Any money collected will be donated to charity, the Maryland-based company says.

The experiment was first brewed up in 2009 with just one stand in San Francisco, and grew to 35 cities (none in Minnesota) in 2012.

And last year, the company put kiosks in all 50 states. Minnesota was tied for 20th with a 94 percent honesty rate, according to a company press release.

Hawaii and Alabama were tops for honesty last year, with 100 percent honesty (everybody paid for their tea in those states). Overall, the nation had a 92 percent honesty rate (and women were more honest than men), the experiment found.

"Even though my bicycle was stolen the same day as our D.C. experiment, it's reassuring to know that 92 percent of Americans will do the right thing even when it seems no one is watching," Seth Goldman, co-founder and CEO of Honest Tea, said.

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