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North Dakota coffee shop has no employees, runs entirely on the honor system…and it’s working

Jun 27, 2014 By Abraham

In the town of Valley City, North Dakota, a former bank has been renovated and is now The Vault, a go-to coffee shop for the small community. Of course it has coffee, tea, and a few pastries…otherwise it wouldn’t really be a coffee shop.

But what it doesn’t have is what sets it apart — Employees.

Nobody works at The Vault. The owners Kimberly and David Brekke stop by to keep it stocked, but that’s it. Prices are clearly marked for customers who get whatever they want, add up their own total, and then swipe their credit card or slip cash or check into the slot on the counter. It’s entirely run on the honor system.

Is it working? Yes, it is.

David says that, while they aren’t making money yet because of the costs of renovations, revenue is 15% higher than if customers only paid the marked prices…

(via Say Anything)

Congrats to the Brekkes for having the guts and creativity to try this out…and to Valley City, ND for being honest enough to make it work.

Would this work in your neighborhood?


  1. Michael says:

    When I lived in Georgia, there was an organic farm / Ag Co-op near us. You could sign-up with them to get veggies, raw milk, butter, etc. delivered each week. But they also had a “store” on their property that was stocked with all kinds of fresh produce and dairy products and it just had a pad and a money drop. You’d write down what you bought and how much it cost, then drop the money in the repository.

    There’s also a meat market near our house in Portland OR (www.ottossausage.com) with a sandwich counter and then a grill outside. There’s no formal “ticket” process – you just order your sandwich or grab your hot dog/chips/drink, and whenever you’re ready you go tell the cashier what you had and settle up. Seems risky, but they do a ton of business. Folks around here generally appreciate the trust!

  2. Shane says:

    There’s a farm/antiques place that occasionally runs on the honor system. They left a cash box and a ledger out and asked you to write down your purchase and pay. It felt very good to be trusted in that way. I’ll always remember it.

    1. Elemento_P says:

      You funny. I once lived in the City. I have never seen a place where larceny was so interwoven into day-to-day life. If it wasn’t nailed and bolted down, it was gone.

  3. anthony says:

    all the ghetto blacks here would rape that store dry in a night. lol no chance.

    that must be an all white/asian area to work.

    1. cody says:

      no one has stolen more then white america….even in todays modern worlds whites still surpass blacks,mexicans, hell any race really in theft by billions. lol idiot.

      1. Dr. Smith says:

        You are wrong on that aspect cody. It is in fact proven that blacks are leading the nation in most consumer goods stolen, up by 36% more than any other race. Please do your research before posting an uneducated comment.

        1. Balsac T. Bagher says:

          My guess is he is commenting more on the real big thefts. Like say, the American landmass.

          1. Dr. Smiths Cricket says:

            I actually think he is talking about the big banks and the way they frivolously lost everyones money only to be bought out by the american people. The majority employees for these companies were white, but I don’t think the problem is a white/black problem, I think there are more economic issues behind it.

        2. hemolysis says:

          For some reason, I could not reply to your other reply below so I will reply to this one instead (time zone differences).

          So what you’re saying essentially, is that when it’s a white collar crime, then it’s just an economic issue but when it’s a blue collar crime, then clearly it’s just blacks committing them.

          Can you please enlighten the rest of us on how people who stole millions and even billions are not considered criminals, yet those who steal a pair of shoes or other minor things are criminals?

        1. Tyrone says:

          And it’s people like you who have already made life hard for us thieving scum, only you can’t see it because you don’t need to worry about issues like discrimination and equal opportunity. It’s really unfortunate that horrible people get the luck of the draw. Enjoy your days while they last sir.

        2. hemolysis says:

          So you are saying that all the people who stole from billions right before the housing bubble, which also affected the car industries, and others….were blacks. This is quite interesting. We should be having so many black millionaires and billionaires in the US. And they were so slick that none of them got caught. Plus, they got the government to bail the companies out, which transferred those losses to tax payers. These guys are just geniuses. Damn! I would like to meet some of these guys. Do you know them?

          I guess these guys must have been the masterminds while the rest were just puppets. Please tell me where I can meet these guys so they can show me some skills.

          1. mike says:

            Actually all of that money that was “stolen” was actually risky investments and borrowing beyond means by people who had a complete and utter choice in the matter. When you invest money you risk a chance of losing it. Otherwise there would be no economic way to justify a gain from it. Further when you borrow more than you can afford you end up losing your house. When you buy a house you are making a large investment in real property. Sometimes it goes up and everyone acts like money grows on trees. Sometimes it goes down and everyone acts like money was stolen from them.

          2. Weaver says:

            >We should be having so many black millionaires and billionaires in the US

            They end up spending it all on ridiculous giant chrome wheels and crack cocaine and end up being broke again by the next week. You obviously don’t know any spooks do you?

          3. hemolysis says:

            Hey Weaver, I was being sarcastic. You are right in saying that many of those black millionaires end up being poor. The thing is that those kinds of people are usually athletes or in the entertainment field. NOT the poeple who stole their money via wall street.

  4. Bruce B. says:

    It can work in small and medium-sized towns where you know all your neighbors, but in big cities forget it. Maybe 80% would pay what they owe with no issues, but the other 20% could easily sink the operation. Either through outright merchandise theft, or walking off with the tables & chairs and the payment drop-box. Or a nice vandalism romp.

    The sandwich shop with minimal staff on hand model could work, at least they have someone on premises to watch for the most egregious offenses, and it’s easy to put up cameras and a DVD to record any bad actions. But not a totally unmanned system.

      1. hemolysis says:

        Why does it have to be about race? In all groups of society, you fill find good and bad people. Whether they are blacks, whites, and everybody else in between. Just look up video of the Boston bombing to see the people who were walking away with clothes that were supposed to be for people who finished the marathon. AND this was AFTER a tragic event.

  5. Allison says:

    Why does every story have to deteriorate into a racist diatribe? Let’s just enjoy this “good news” article and move on.

    1. hemolysis says:

      That is the unfortunate state of our society. And it will continue as long as funds for education are cut and more and more people are less educated. There are people who are doing this intentionally. They believe it is easier to control people who are less educated. They do not want the kind of people who will question things and can reason properly.

  6. Brad says:

    This isn’t really that great, as it’s just a keurig… there’s nothing “coffee shop” about this. True coffee shops serve you something you can’t get at home for probably cheaper, they’d have someone who’s skilled at coffee art, producing amazing coffee.

  7. Softy says:

    Well, employees do tend to be the largest expense category for many businesses, and the margins on selling coffee can be pretty ludicrous / lucrative…

    It appears though that there are frequently people in the shop for a social gathering. The social pressure from having people around to possibly notice that you’re cheating the owner / walked out without paying at all is probably a pretty strong force here.

    The other comedy here is that maybe low-wage workers don’t need to worry about being replaced by machines. Maybe they just need to worry about being removed entirely.

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