Shop relying on customer integrity proves that honesty pays

London’s unique Honesty Shop bus conversion is bringing out the best in people and raising money for charity

The Honesty Shop is a retail experience with a difference. Located in a 50-year-old double-decker bus in St Katharine Docks next to the Tower of London, it’s a shop with no staff and where payments are made in honesty envelopes placed into a custom-made letterbox.

A refreshing alternative to strip-lit stores and garish offer stickers, the Honesty Shop sells a range of British-made souvenirs, knitted clothing, toys, gardening tools and kitchenware. The items are all priced; the idea is that customers are game enough to add the correct money to an honesty envelope and post it into the letterbox without being asked. ‘Bus conductor’ Barnaby who manages the stock, sits upstairs to keep an eye on the proceedings just in case, and looks after the shop’s social media campaigns.

The shop is born of an idea that started three years ago in Gimmelwald, Switzerland, by hotel owner David Waterhouse. An empty shop in his Swiss village caught his eye, but he couldn’t afford to pay someone to run it. “I started thinking of the unattended displays of vegetables, eggs and preserves you sometimes find near farm gateways with just a box for the money,” he explains. And so the first village honesty shop was born and quickly became a popular tourist attraction.

Waterhouse eventually decided to bring the concept to London. “People said to me they thought the shop was great but it was something you could only do in Switzerland,” he says. But the success of the London shop proves them wrong. “We take stock every morning and every evening and don’t seem to have lost anything.”

The bus, dubbed ‘Trusty’, will be at Marble Quay, St Katharine Docks until February 2013. 10% of each sale is donated to a charity of the customer’s choice, from a pre-selected list including Macmillan Cancer Support and Compassion in World Farming.