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You Lie? An 'Honest' Assessment Of Louisville

Louisville skyline

You're walking around downtown Louisville on a hot, steamy day. At Fifth and Main streets, you see an unmanned stand of refreshing ice cold tea. You can take a bottle -- just as long as you drop $1 into a box. It's the honor system.

What would you do?
Louisville was once known as Possibility City and, more recently, Compassionate City. Now, according to an experiment conducted by beverage maker Honest Tea, Louisville can also go by the moniker Honesty City.

Honest Tea has conducted this  experiment every year for the past seven. In June, in 24 cities across the country, racks of tea were set up in public spaces that get lots of foot traffic. Seth Goldman, Honest Tea CEO -- or as he likes to be called, TEA-E-O -- said at each rack of tea, a sign was placed that read, "$1 each, Honor System."

The tea was left out for 4-5 hours in each city. There was a box to collect the money. No one monitored the stand and no was there to shame people for not paying.

Goldman said the project was developed as a way for the company to engage with customers, and also to test if people held the same values of honesty and transparency as the company.

“We got some very positive news for Louisville,” Goldman said.

Louisville tied with Atlanta as the third most honest city with a 98 percent honesty rating. Goldman said of the 100-200 people in Louisville who participated in the experiment, most of them paid a dollar for a bottle of tea.

With its 98 percent honesty rating, Louisville fared better than the national average of 93 percent. Still, Goldman said the national average is far better than what people who were surveyed predicted.

“When we talked to people and asked them what’s your estimate on how honest people would be, we heard maybe 60-70 percent of people might put money in the box,” he said.

Honolulu ranked at the top as the most honest city in America at 100 percent, followed by Austin at 99 percent.

With 86 percent in Seattle and Providence, and 83 percent in Denver, those three cities ranked as the least honest.

Also according to the experiment, women were found to be more honest than men, and redheads were the most honest.

Men, brunettes and people with bald heads were found to be the least honest.

Roxanne Scott covers education for WFPL News.