Can honesty-based stores succeed in the Philippines?

January 10, 2019 - 2:00 PM
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Manila's Finest Honesty Store Interaksyon
The honesty store of Manila Police District closed down due to alleged theft of profit. (The STAR/Edd Gumban)

An official from the Manila Police District (MPD) said that an honesty store may not be possible in the country after the MPD’s own venture closed barely a year after its launch.

MPD’s honesty store, the first of its kind in any police station in the country, closed shop on Tuesday after a female aide had allegedly pocketed its income since it opened last year. No charges, however, had been filed against her.

Ester Tan, general manager of the MPD Finest Brotherhood Cooperative, expressed that an establishment relying on honest consumers may only be possible in Batanes.

Batanes is known for its Honesty Cafe where food and drinks for sale are left unattended and customers voluntarily pay for the items they get.

“It is a tough proposition. Honesty store is not applicable in MPD or for that matter anywhere other than Batanes,” she said.

She cited an average of P500 to P1,000 worth of losses per month, or a total of P20,000 as the reason why the group decided to discontinue the store’s operations.

“We have decided to close the store because it is not picking up. On the contrary, we are losing money and it is not a good idea to continue when nothing is happening positively,” she said.

This development cast a bad light on the law enforcers in general, as some Filipinos expressed online.

Others concurred with Tan’s observation and comparison to the popular establishment in Batanes.

comment on honesty store story Interaksyon
(Screenshot by Interaksyon)

The now-closed shop, located near the guard at the MPD headquarters lobby, was opened last June 9.

It was the brainchild of former MPD Director Rolando Anduyan, who named it “Manila’s Finest Honesty Store.” It sold basic food items, beverages, cups and stirrers. The target customers were police officers on duty, and visitors or guests.

“We would like to open the eyes of the (police officers) that if they can be honest in small things they can also be trustworthy in bigger things,” Anduyan said back then.

After two months, Tan reported that the store lost more than P15,000 in sales. During the investigation, they saw the female worker, a certain Liza, pilfering through the payment box.

The MPD personnel division immediately dismissed her after the incident.

However, MPD’s general assignment and investigation section was not able to file charges against her.

The department perceived that the Finest Brotherhood Cooperative, the group overseeing the shop, lacked interest in pursuing the case.

Does it really work?

For the owners of the must-visit cafe in Batanes, an unmanned concept store worked for them for 23 years.

It was in 1995 when retired teacher Elena Castano-Gabilo or Lola Elena and her husband set it up in the municipality of Ivana in Batanes.

Gabilo was just helping out fishermen, providing them with drinking water, coffee and some food for a month when she decided to turn it into an entrepreneurial endeavor.

The elderly couple just put a sign on the wall that says, “Get what you need. Please pay (for) whatever you get. If you have no change, knock at the door. If no one answers, sorry, so you give more than the price. May your tribe increase. Remember, Honesty is the best policy.”

Their rustic, small cafe soon became popular among tourists here and abroad.

In some parts of the world, there are also other establishments that are successfully run without store personnel, such as a vegetable stall in the United Arab Emirates and roadside stalls in Japan.