A. You are going to hear an American economist talking about Paul Feldman’s experiment. Listen and answer the questions.
1 What do you think the average payment rate was?
a 70-80% b 80-90% c 90-100%
2 Were smaller offices more or less honest than big ones?
3 How often has the cash box been stolen?
4 Did people ‘cheat’ more during good or bad weather?
5 Did people ‘cheat’ more or less before Christmas? Why?
6 Who ‘cheated’ more, executives or lower status employees?
B. Listen again and choose a, b, or c.
1 More people paid in Feldman’s own office…
a after he had caught somebody stealing.
b because he asked them personally for the money.
c because the workers were his colleagues.
2 Feldman eventually stopped selling bagels to…
a a company where less than 80% paid for their bagels.
b a company where the money box got stolen.
c a company where less than 90% paid for their bagels.
3 People are more honest in smaller companies because…
a they are more likely to get caught.
b they would be more embarrassed about being caught.
c there is more control from the management.
4 People ‘cheat’ more…
a after a day off.
b before all public holidays.
c before some public holidays.
5 Which of these people is most likely to pay?
a An employee who doesn’t like his boss.
b An executive who is very popular with his staff.
c An employee who likes the company where he works.
1 b (80-905)
2 Smaller offices were more honest.
3 The cash box has hardly ever been stolen.
4 They cheated more during bad weather.
5 They cheated more before Christmas because many people often feel anxious and stressed before this holiday and don’t look forward it.
6 Executives cheated more than lower status employees.
1 c 2 a 3 b 4 c 5 c
When Paul Feldman started his business, you know, he really thought that at least 95% of the people would pay for their bagels. This was presumably because that was the payment rate that he got in his own office. But in fact this rate wasn’t representative at all. I mean in his office, most people paid probably just because Feldman worked there himself, and they knew him personally, and probably liked him.
So when Feldman sold his bagels in other offices, he had to accept less. After a while, he considered that a company was ‘honest’ if over 90% of the people paid. Between 80 and 90% was what he considered to be normal, you know, the average rate. He didn’t like it, but he had to accept it. It was only if a company habitually paid less than 80% – which luckily not many did – that he would feel he had to do something. First he would leave a note, sort of giving them a warning, and then, if things didn’t improve, he would simply stop selling there. Interestingly, since he started the business, the boxes he leaves to collect the cash have hardly ever been stolen. Obviously in the mind of an office worker, to steal a bagel isn’t a crime – but to steal the money box is.
So what does the bagel data tell us about the kind of offices that were not honest, the ones that didn’t pay? Well, first of all, it shows that smaller offices are more honest than big ones. An office with twenty to thirty employees generally pays 3 to 5% more than an office with two to three hundred employees. This seems to be because in a smaller community people are more worried about being dishonest – probably because they would feel worse if they were caught.
The bagel data also suggests that your mood, how you feel, affects how honest you are. For example, the weather is a really important factor. When the weather is unusually good, more people pay, but if it’s unusually cold or rainy, fewer people pay. And people are also affected by public holidays, but in different ways – it depends which public holiday. Before Christmas and Thanksgiving, people are less honest, but just before the 4th of July and Labour Day they are more honest. This seems to be because holidays, like the 4th of July, are just a day off work, and people always look forward to them. But Christmas and Thanksgiving are holidays where people often feel quite stressed or miserable. So their bad mood makes them less honest.
The other thing Feldman believes affects how honest people are, is the morale in an office. When employees like their boss and like their job, then the office is more honest. He also thinks that the higher people are promoted, the less honest they are. He reached this conclusion because over several years he’d been delivering three baskets of bagels to a company that was on three floors. The top floor was the executive floor, and the lower two floors were people who worked in sales, and service, and administrative employees. Well, it turned out that the least honest floor was the executive floor! It makes you wonder whether maybe these guys got to be executives because they were good at cheating!
But in general the story of Feldman’s bagel business is a really positive one. It’s true that some people do steal from him, but the vast majority, even though no-one is watching them, are honest.
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