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News of Zealand

A Few Bad Apples Are Ruining New Zealand's Roadside Honesty Box System

A Marlborough fruit stall selling plums and blueberries has had hundreds of dollars stolen from its honesty box.

by Zoe Madden-Smith
07 January 2019, 10:07pm

Image via Shutterstock

In a world that feels more and more like it’s every person for themselves, you’ve got to wonder how those honesty boxes selling fresh fruit or flowers on the side of the road are going. Well, it turns out this Kiwi tradition – whereby local growers rely on their customers to leave the correct amount of cash to cover their purchase – is taking a serious hit from the not-so-honest fruit- and money-hungry members of our society.

As you could expect, the unattended shops deal with small thefts regularly – some people “pay” in plastic coins, casino chips or foreign currency, or just don’t bother to pay at all. But what may surprise you are the more malicious attacks. Over the Christmas and New Year period just been, Windsong Orchard owner Jennie Crum was targeted by a string of $100-a-day thefts, Stuff reports. Her small stall sells $4 punnets of blueberries and $6 punnets of plums, and she believes it's obvious there’s been a concerted effort behind the thefts.

After Crum posted about her dismay on Facebook, she was flooded with support from Kiwis not ready to say goodbye to the honesty box tradition. She later found notes and gifts in the box, including a bottle of wine and $20 attached to a card which read "this won't cover what you lost, but we love what you do and want you to continue despite a couple of dishonest people out there". After reading the post, Brendon Price of BP Computers lent Crum a security camera to mind her stall, and she says this has already helped her earnings.

Ninety-four-year-old Blenheim resident Ross Grant has been selling feijoas and lemons outside his home for six years. Over this time, he says, he has had the honesty box stolen and the safe pried open.

It’s “honesty box or nothing”, Grant says, because he can’t afford to sit out there all day himself. But although the setbacks get owners down, it sounds like honesty boxes aren’t quite a thing of the past yet. Grant says it is his loyal – and honest – clientele that keeps him open.