Is the Honor System Dead?
Photos by Robb Walsh
Driving back from vacation, I noticed a honey stand along the highway in the town of Shirley, Arkansas with a sign that said "Self-Service." I pulled over and took a look. There was sorghum, local honey, bee pollen, beeswax and honey candy for sale. You took whatever you wanted and left your money in a box with a slot in it. I got a bottle of sorghum and one of honey for a total of $11. You don't see honor boxes at roadside stands much anymore. But there is something reassuring about doing business this way.
A Louisiana oysterman told me he used to sell his oysters from a cooler on the side of the road -- customers left money and took oysters. When I was in high school, there was an egg farm near my house in rural Connecticut that operated on the honor system. You took your eggs and left your money in a cigar box. I remember there was a candle and matches on the table next to the money box so you could "candle your eggs." Unfortunately, somebody stole the cigar box. (One of my brother's slimeball friends was suspected.) The honor system at the egg farm came to halt after the theft. It was a sad day.
There was a pie lady who sold pies and cookies from a house just past La Grange on Highway 71 on your way to Austin. When she wasn't home, you took a frozen pie out of the freezer and left your money in a bowl. I bought several dewberry pies that way. Unfortunately, the La Grange pie lady took down her signs a couple of years ago. She was getting pretty old.
D.W. Vasbinder's barbecue store on 90A in Richmond has an honor system wood pile. You take packages of mesquite, oak or pecan wood and leave the appropriate amount of money in the box -- $5 for pecan, $5 for mesquite, and $7 for hickory. That's the only honor system business I can think of around here. Anybody know of any others?
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.