Saturday, July 09, 2016

Observations on London

I recently spent a few days in London and was struck by several features of current London culture:

1. Several times, younger passengers on the Tube (subway) offered me their seats. I have grey hair but do not appear (and am not) particularly feeble. I would be mildly surprised to have the same thing happen in the U.S.

2. Most hotels I have stayed in recently, in the U.S. and abroad, have a safe in the room with a combination that the guest sets. The hotel I stayed at in the U.K. didn't. That might mean that U.K. guests are less worried about pilfering by hotel employees than hotel guests elsewhere. Of course, my sample size is very small.

3. Walking through Notting Hill (no Napoleons visible) I observed the scene shown below, jam offered for sale with a request to put the payment through the house's mail slot.  I cannot remember having ever seen a similar scene here, although I don't suppose it's impossible.

20 Comments:

At 2:37 PM, July 09, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow!

 
At 5:55 PM, July 09, 2016, Blogger David Jones said...

I see things like that everyday in Texas.

 
At 6:15 PM, July 09, 2016, Anonymous Handle said...

That is common in northern New England, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont in particular, at least, in my experience. I've also seen it in Australia. Usually there is a slotted lockbox for the cash. Three things are most common: firewood, fresh produce, and desserts of various kinds. I spent time in coastal Maine in which I procured all firewood, pies and blueberries via the honor system.

That's the very edge of a high-trust social equilibrium. It's very fragile to breaking if defection risk passes some low threshold.

 
At 7:16 PM, July 09, 2016, Blogger Chris Hibbert said...

I've definitely seen fresh fruit in a box by the street (often with grocery bags when those were a thing) and a request to leave payment at the house. Home made jam isn't that big a step. (Canning jars are cheap, and if you have a fruit tree, it's as easy to make five jars as two.)

Do you live in town? We're in a neighborhood of single-family residences with front and back yards. Probably 75% have fruit trees, though I'll bet that less than half the residents know how to manage their trees for reasonable productivity.

 
At 7:34 PM, July 09, 2016, Blogger David Friedman said...

We have a lot of fruit trees. We sometimes leave a bag of lemons hanging from the fence, with a sign inviting people to take one, but we aren't selling them. My wife and daughter turn excess fruit into jam, but it's for their church to use in fund raising.

Glad to hear that the pattern is more common than I thought.

 
At 7:09 AM, July 10, 2016, Anonymous Laura D said...

I am 60, with some accompanying gray hair, bit I am a runner and don't think I project frailty. I get offered seats on the MBTA (Boston) cars on a fairly regular basis.

 
At 7:31 AM, July 10, 2016, Blogger Grant said...

This is fairly common here in rural Oregon. The aforementioned fruits, vegetables and firewood are most often seen, but you do run across the occasional egg vendor. One local farm, specializing in goats, had a little stand complete with refrigerator and offered cheese and milk on the honor system!

 
At 4:27 PM, July 10, 2016, Anonymous Jack PQ said...

Economist Richard Thaler wrote about a similar example in Ithaca NY. I think he was using it as an example of irrationality :-) but I think it's more consistent with a rational but fragile equilibrium as @Handle describes.

 
At 7:39 AM, July 11, 2016, Anonymous LH said...

I've seen similar "honor system" sales in North Carolina on a few occasions, as well as while driving through rural areas in various parts of the country. I get the impression that sort of thing used to be more common, though.

 
At 1:44 PM, July 11, 2016, Blogger Dimitriy said...

There are several stands like this in the Santa Cruz mountains along Old Soquel Road that sell eggs and produce. That's pretty close to where you live.

 
At 11:33 PM, July 11, 2016, Blogger Grant said...

Interesting. Did you see any counter-anecdotes - any evidence of Londoners being less trusting than Americans?

 
At 1:56 PM, July 13, 2016, Blogger J Oliver said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2:00 PM, July 13, 2016, Blogger J Oliver said...

Near me you can buy watermelons and local honey where you drop the money in a slot. John Stossel did an episode where they sell expensive seafood that way. I live in north central Florida. I think most people respond well to being trusted.

 
At 5:25 AM, July 15, 2016, Blogger David Murphy said...

Some of that stuff is fairly common in the more affluent areas of London.
I've seen small shops doing something similar over lunch hour with items out front and a box.

It's a good sign for a neighborhood. kinda like seeing a 100 dollar bill pinned up on the noticeboard in a company that you're interviewing at with a 2 day old note saying it was found in the breakroom.

The teenagers are again a neighborhood thing though they're mostly OK.

 
At 2:26 PM, July 17, 2016, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

"We have a lot of fruit trees. We sometimes leave a bag of lemons hanging from the fence, with a sign inviting people to take one, but we aren't selling them."

Sometimes people just take fruit, although I'm not sure there's all that much demand for lemons.

I was sitting here at the computer one morning when I noticed a movement through the back door off to my left. I turn and see some guy walk by and turn towards the back of the yard, then turn right toward one of our two apple trees. He then started pacing back and forth staring at the ground. I realized he was looking for apples when he picked one up and put it in his pocket. I let him continue.

As he left, he saw me through the back door, pointed to an apple in his hand and nodded. Whatever. I figured the apples might just rot if left on the ground, but still found it creepy someone felt at east just walking into our back yard.

Strangely enough, we have a number of blackberry bushes on the side of our yard along the sidewalk and people regularly come to our door asking to pick some. Odd, since blackberries pretty much grow wild up here.

 
At 12:06 PM, July 18, 2016, Anonymous jasper said...

What happened to the posting and the discussion thread on religious belief?

jasper

 
At 1:03 PM, July 19, 2016, Blogger Patricia Lee said...

As Handle said, just trusting people to leave cash is common in NH. If you leave your purse somewhere, someone will chase you down and give it back to you. There are lots of unattended roadside produce and egg stands.

 
At 1:47 AM, July 21, 2016, Blogger Unknown said...

On a recent trip to Sweden, where I grew up, I made a similar observation: the kids where offering their seats on the bus to older people. The funny thing is, I don't remember that we were nearly that polite when we were kids (in the seventies).

Unmanned stands where you leave cash for produce? I first saw it in Sonoma County, CA, and never expected to see it in Sweden. Now I see it in (rural) Sweden all the time.

A shocking hypothesis presents itself: Maybe manners are getting better.

Is it possible that while we got addicted to the sweet curmudgeonly pleasure of lamenting the decline of society, copybook-heading virtues like honesty and kindness made a stealthy comeback? That we are more well behaved now than ever since the sixties? What disturbing thoughts :-D

 
At 11:13 AM, July 22, 2016, Blogger D Hend said...

You do not live in the Southern US do you? Offering seats to others is an extremely common occurrence.

 
At 6:45 AM, July 27, 2016, Blogger Baconbacon said...

Small scale honor system setups are surprisingly robust. They obviously won't stand up to perpetual out right theft, but their costs are so low that they can stand a fair bit more than you might think. A farm I used to drive by occasionally would have eggs for sale on the honor system for $3 a dozen (basically the same price as cage free eggs int he grocery store at that time). A reasonable guess would be that they are getting ~2 dozen eggs a day for sale, and if they sold them to a grocery store once a week (7 dozen at a time) and the grocery store paid them $2 a dozen, then the extra profit there already pays for 4-5 dozen eggs a week being stolen. Additionally they save the cost of negotiating with the store, and arranging drop off each week. They would have to lose close to half their inventory to theft each week to make switching to a non honor system profitable in any way.

 

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