Self-Serve Coffee Shop Manages To Make Money On The Honor System

You might think that offering customers the choice to pay whatever they want for something would be a sure way to the poorhouse. But one North Dakota coffee shop is not only making its honor system work, but it’s making money.

The owner of a North Dakota coffee shop says all the attention he’s gotten lately for his idea of charging customers whatever they want to pay is nice and all, but it’s not that surprising — everyone there knows their neighbors.

“I think that people who haven’t grown up in a small, tight-knit community like this are very surprised by honesty,” he tells the Associated Press.

He and his wife run the shop in a town of about 6,700 people, and don’t employ baristas. Instead, customers pick out their choice of coffee from a dispenser or choose a single-serve Keurig option, as well as pastries and soft drinks.

Prices are listed, but it’s up to customers to decide what to pay by credit card, cash or check. Change isn’t necessary, a sign instructs, just “round down and give yourself a break or round up and help us stay in business.”

That practice has brought in 15% more money than the asking prices for items, and the customers seem happy.

“I like the self-serve,” one teen says, saying it’s nice to not feel smothered. “There’s not someone like hovering over you all the time.”


North Dakota coffee shop works on honor system [Associated Press]

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  1. ShadyTrust says:

    Why are overpay and underpay the only two options? I’d pay what I find to be fair.

    • furiousd says:

      That’s the problem with polls, you design the available choices to get the response percentage you want. Which is why I wish news stations would focus more on responsible research than crummy polls that are so easily manipulated. Quality research is reproducible and the experimental methods have to be disclosed.

    • Xenotaku says:

      Yeah, there really needs to be a “pay the listed price” option.

  2. furiousd says:

    I’m with the teen on this one, I hate going shopping anywhere because the people training the employees on ‘customer service’ are being told something that makes them bother people. I specifically shop at 24-hour stores for groceries so I can avoid people and use the self-checkout so I don’t have to interact with a cashier. I also had hopped between about half a dozen hair places until I found one that respected the fact I wasn’t interested in inane chatter. I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords and anticipate a wonderful society where I don’t have to waste time coming up with pleasantries or being guilted into a tip for refilling my water at a buffet – http://youtu.be/7Pq-S557XQU

    Full disclosure: yes, I’m an engineer who works for a robotics, artificial intelligence, and computer vision laboratory