The Psychology Of The Honor System At The Farm Stand
Swanton’s customers and other farm stand customers like paying through the honor system, but why?
In a state full of tasty surprises, count the Swanton Berry Farm, along the coast highway just north of Santa Cruz, California, among the most charming. At this pick-your-own, certified-organic berry field and farm stand cafe on the planted bluffs above a tumbling surf, you can pick or picnic with ocean views — and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of a grey whale and her calf migrating north from Baja. Locals bring out-of-town guests to Swanton’s to swoon over the juicy organic strawberries or blackberries on buttery shortcake, or the scones slathered with tartly sweet, small-batch strawberry-citrus jam.
But what customers seem to love at least as much as the expansive views and good food is Swanton’s old-style method of payment: Step up to the unmanned counter whenever you’re ready, figure out what you owe (scratch paper provided), and stuff the cash through a slot in the honor box. Swanton founder Jim Cochran says his stand has thrived for years on the honor payment system, a style of business he first admired as a college student at his favorite bakery in Santa Cruz decades ago.