Bagel thieves

I’m reading the book Freakonomics by a University of Chicago economics professor Steven Levitt.

In one chapter he talks about an entrepreneur who sets up a business of selling bagels on the honor system in the offices of several companies. By analysing who pays for the bagels and who takes them without paying, Levitt draws several interesting conclusions.

One unsurprising conclusion is that most people are honest. The payment rate in most businesses was over 90 percent.

However, in those businesses where more than one bagel station was set up–and the stations were set in the areas occupied by top management, middle management, and the worker bees–top management types seemed to be the least honest. In other words, those with the highest positions, and presumably those making the most money, were less likely to pay for their bagels than their employees a couple of floors down.

Surprised? If you are, I guess you haven’t been paying attention much lately. Let me give you some hints: Enron, Tyco, Adelphia, Merrill Lynch, United Air Lines, Global Crossing, Worldcom…

Watch your bagels.