Honor Snacks and Honesty / by kevin murray

Earlier in my career I was working at a company that didn't have enough employees to justify an on-site vending machine, so for those that desired to snack throughout certain points of the day, you would either have to bring in your own snacks, place something in our company refrigerator, or walk 100 yards or so to the corner deli which had somewhat limited hours, or you could walk or drive a heck of a lot further.  America is a country of salesmen, and one day someone came by, with the Honor Snacks pitch, which was simply that they would stock their cardboard box with various items of chips, candy, and the like, and that you as the consumer would place into their slot the correct change to purchase said item.  Since the snacks were out in the open, payment was strictly based on the honor system.

 

Honor Snacks within our company was definitely utilized, people appreciated the overall convenience, to which within the company there would be regular buyers of the snacks, those that never participated, and occasional participants.  One of the fundamental problems within the Honor Snack system was that the proper usage of the payment structure necessitated you having correct change, since there wasn't any change mechanism, or you could put in instead a folded dollar bill and perhaps purchase two items or remember that you had some sort of credit to a future item.  The prices were clearly marked so there was never any reason or excuse not to pay for a product in real-time, since there was no credit extended to anybody.

 

Not too surprisingly, Honor Snacks, did not collect 100% on their goods, and while there are salient reasons why this might not be so, as in perhaps, candy that was spoiled or didn't taste good, a mouse biting into a corner of a candy bar, or perhaps a chip bag that was ripped, the fact is the shortage could only have come from the employees of the company.  In order to get people to pay consistently for their products, Honor Snacks had a policy of posting the "shrinkage" upon each time they collected and refilled the snack tray, so that we would invariably get figures that we were 12-18% short every two weeks.  That shortage never bothered me, I always saw it as the cost of doing business, but it invariably bothered the crap out of our President, who expressed that this result reflected poorly upon the honesty of our employees. I do believe, however, that our President's main "beef" was that this poor result embarrassed him in front of potential clients as they visited our site.  I patiently explained to our President that it was the Honor Snacks policy to post these shortage figures and that we couldn't have the snack box without it, and I might add, I never heard or saw him suggest that by simply having the company make up for the shortage by voluntarily putting in a few extra dollars, we would be in the good.

 

Like most things, our Honor Snacks experience did come to an end, as our company grew big enough to expand out of our space and into a new facility which would have actual vending machines.  Honor Snacks was well aware that we would be leaving them and knew the exact day, when we would entirely vacate our current premises so I was somewhat surprised that they kept their snacks within our company longer than I would have expected.  Consequently, for whatever reason, I made it clear to a few favored employees that this last go-around with Honor Snacks was pretty much a free-for-all, and set the tone myself by taking a few select items and walking away.  Upon seeing this, other employees must have determined that I was not kidding and got right down to business, so that when the Honor Snacks representative came by a couple days later there were maybe two beaten-down snacks left and pretty much an empty collection box.  It was, I admit, difficult for me to keep a straight face and the Honor Snacks representative looked absolutely appalled but was without power to rectify it. 

 

The above would imply that there is indeed a very thin line between civilized and responsible actions in comparison to utter vice and chaos; and the switchover is remarkably easy to make.