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Bethesda company tests honesty of tea drinkers

Wednesday - 7/16/2014, 5:08pm  ET

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A woman pays for two Honest Tea drinks at Dupont Circle Wednesday afternoon. The Bethesda-based tea company held its annual honesty test to see how many people paid for the cold beverages. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)

WASHINGTON - How honest are people in the District?

As it has for several years, a local company did a test Wednesday to find out.

A kiosk loaded with bottles and pouches of Honest Tea was placed in Dupont Circle with signs telling people to pay on the honor system by leaving $1 per drink in a see-through box.

"We've always seeked to have this direct, natural and transparent relationship with our products and with our customers, and so we love to test, once a year, how much our customers embody these same values," says Seth Goldman, co-founder and "TeaEO" of Bethesda-based Honest Tea.

And just like last year, the D.C. experiment will be repeated in all 50 states.

"Last year, D.C. was the lowest performer. Nationally last year, about 93 percent of people were honest. Last year in D.C. about 80 percent of the people were honest, so there was a bad vibe out there," Goldman says.

On top of that, on the day of the District experiment, Goldman's bike was stolen in Bethesda.

In 2013, Alabama and Hawaii proved to be the most honest with 100 percent of drinkers paying. Maine and Indiana were right behind with 99 percent of participants doing the honest thing.

With just two hours left in this year's D.C. test, WTOP stopped by to check how it was going Wednesday.

Goldman said things were looking up: More than 175 people had participated, and more than 95 percent had done the right thing and paid.

The big, clear box at the kiosk was loaded with dollar bills.

"It's funny, over the years we've seen everything from people sticking in mayonnaise packets in the box pretending they're paying, We've had some people who actually didn't pay but later mailed us a few dollars bills because they felt guilty," says Goldman.

The results of all of this year's experiments will be released on Aug. 19.

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