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May 15, 2005


Hi Half Sigma
I was intrigued by the bagel guy story. We have a bagel guy who comes to our office twice a week. These are really low-quality day-old bagels so I don't know why people would want them. Anyway, a lot of people are apparently cheating this guy.
I think it is easier for people to free ride if there are more people. The cheater figures that his contribution to the box will not make much difference to the total kitty and no one will know that she cheated him. In an office of 5 people, one cheat is immediately noticed and all five are shamed (they are all one-fifth cheats ex ante). In an office of 100 people, one cheater only makes everyone else a 1 percent cheat.
Cheating is much easier in large anonymous crowds.

The bagel seller story was supposed to tell us that 87% of us are honest. However I didn't get that at all. It only says that 87% are honest when a $1 bagel is at stake. And maybe it isn't so easy to pilfer a bagel without co-workers noticing.

What would happen if someone tried to sell Rolex watches using an honor system like the bagel seller's?

Hi Half Sigma
I think that it is terrible that people where I work with their high income (and top secret security clearances) would cheat a guy out of a buck. I do believe that the incentives for cheating are very different in a large office. Click on my name and you can read about it.

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