Word of Mouth

Honest Tea will test Denver's honesty next week

Honest Tea produces organic tea flavored with core values of honesty and transparency, and has kept its promise of creating healthy tea from real tea leaves even after Coca-Cola bought 40 percent of its stock.

But how do we, the consumers, prove we're deserving? For the past two years, Honest Tea has conducted a social experiment that produces an "Honesty Index" for places across the country. This year's test will be conducted at pop-up kiosks in fifty locations and thirty cities, and Denver and Boulder are on the list. Next Tuesday, kiosks offering tea will appear around town, and it will be your decision whether to pay the requested $1 or not.

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According to Peter Kaye, Honest Tea's vice president of marketing, "We'll be able to compare results and have some fun to see how honest people are when nobody's watching." Honest Tea will then determine the location's Honesty Index by dividing the number of bottles taken by the money in the unmanned cash box. But first, "undercover" Honest Tea operatives will take notes on such factors as gender and outward appearance -- from a distance, of course. Will knowing they might be watched influence how many people pay for the tea they take? Peter Kaye doesn't think so.

"As we went into last year's program, many people thought people would only be 40 to 50 percent honest," he explains. "We were really pleasantly surprised to find that over 90 percent of the bottles taken were paid for. Hopefully people will act on their current instincts with what they would have done had they not heard of it."

In addition to determining how many people are honest, Honest Tea wants to find out exactly who is honest. "We're going to share observable data like gender, hair color, surfer versus body builder or New York sports fan versus Los Angeles or San Francisco sports fan," he notes. When the results are released online on August 20, consumers will be able to play around with the data and create their own match-up and share findings with friends via Facebook and Twitter.

"We're going to really try and have as much fun with this as we can, but provide interesting social observations," says Kaye. "It's about sharing and extending our core values of honesty and transparency, so we hope people get engaged and share with friends."