The only cashier at the Honor System Bookstore in Cambridge is a lock box that reads “Please pay here! Thank you!” For three years, the modest stand has set up shop along Brattle Street.

 

A recent promotion suggests that if the stand were set up in New York or Los Angeles, it might have less of a profit margin.

 

The company Honest Tea set up stands in Boston and other cities this summer in a promotion they said tested the honesty of residents of certain cities. Passersby could take a bottle of the tea and deposit a dollar — or just take the drink. Hidden video cameras recorded people’s reactions, which were then were posted on the Internet.

 

The results depend on many variables, like location and demographics, said Charles Lindholm, a Boston University anthropology professor.


“The assumption that people are inherently dishonest is wrong and people will generally do the right thing,” said Lindholm. “A lot of people do have a conscience and will do what they believe is the right thing.”