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October 15, 2021

Are roadside "take what you want and pay what you owe" stands doomed?

For some time now, Cropthorne Farm on B.C.’s Lower Mainland has sold eggs on the honour system. They load up a cooler with about eight dozen eggs and put it at the end of their driveway with a sign reading “$5” and a jar filled with some change in to get things rolling.

Whether it's corn or apples, honour boxes like this remain a point of pride and practicality for a number of small farmers across the country who think their time is better spent tending crops than manning a roadside stand -- and who firmly believe that most people are honest.

And it would seem that many are. Despite the hundreds of vehicles that rush by, nobody has ever stolen a single egg, lifted the cash or even shortchanged owner, farm owner Lydia Ryall says.

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the norm.

In recent years, as the economy has taken a toll on many, more farmers are noticing people stealing from their stands by paying for 12 ears of corn and taking 13 or coming up a few dollars short on a package of tomatoes.

As a result, they've shuttered their roadside stands after proceeds in the payment box simply kept dwindling: "You start feeling like you’re working for nothing," one disgruntled vendor told the National Post.

Some have decided to fight back instead. One weary soul even went so far to set up a hidden wildlife camera at her farm stand and waited in hopes of catching whoever was emptying the box on her behalf -- which kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

Nonethless, there are many examples around the world where such a system still works, maintains Jeffery  Mcpherson, the author of Honor System Marketing.

Is the honour system alive and well in your area? Does it work or is it simply an easy target for thieves?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...