AN item in a Chinese newspaper caught my attention last week. Being a “yellow banana”, I had to rely on the translated article which appeared in this newspaper on Tuesday.
According to Sin Chew Daily, there is a coffee shop in Sungai Penjuring, Bentong, that operates on a completely self-service mode.
The operator leaves the coffee shop unattended, allowing customers to help themselves to cigarettes, carbonated drinks and beer (obviously in hot demand because of the current World Cup season).
There is a plastic container at the counter for customers to place cash, take the change if any, or even leave a tip if they so desire.
According to former village head Huang Ri Yong, the shop belongs to his brother-in-law, who usually goes out to attend to other matters after opening the shop.
“It is all about trust, and the residents here are very honest.
“They pay for what they take by leaving money at the counter. There’s no stealing because we all know each other in this neighbourhood,” he told the daily.
The story reminded me of what I wrote about in Monday Starters (which was what this column used to be called when it ran in the Business section) about Red Sky Trading, a shop run by a couple in Vermont which sells all sorts of home made delights plus lots of knickknacks piled from floor to ceiling.
Doug and Cheri Safford are also not in their shop most of the time, so people come into the shop, buy what they need, record it in a little book, and then drop the money into a glass jar.
As far as I know, there has been no incident of people taking things and not paying for them; or dipping their hands into the money jar.
Such stories are rare simply because honesty is not necessarily the best policy for many people.
As I wrote back then, “some of us are known to search out loopholes in every system. It is thus not a surprise that remarks like ‘It may not be legally wrong, but is it morally right?’ or ‘It’s okay because everyone else is doing it’ are quite commonplace.”
Stories about someone returning a big sum of money to the rightful owner, or about this coffee shop in Bentong operating unattended, make the headlines because they are rare.
Even in football, we get stories about players diving to trick the referee into awarding a penalty, but rarely do we have stories about a player admitting he committed a foul, or that a goal given should actually not count because he had used his hand to guide it in.
A CEO once said: “People of honour, people of their word, people who try to live in purity of mind and heart – such individuals stand out, if only because of their relative scarcity.”
And so we are inundated with news about corruption, from the very small cases to the big ones, here and abroad. And that’s not counting the unreported cases.
It is against this backdrop that instances of honesty stand out like stars in a darkened sky, giving hope and lighting the way. xecutive editor Soo Ewe Jin (firstname.lastname@example.org) would like to try out an experiment where he puts a basket of the best musang king durian by the roadside, unattended, with a banner that reads, “Take one only, drop RM50 into the tin, all proceeds go to charity.”
The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own. The STAR Home New Opinion Columnist July 6, 2014