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The Small Town Coffee Shop That Truly Believes in the Goodness of Its Customers

July 2, 2014
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The Small Town Coffee Shop That Truly Believes in the Goodness of Its Customers
Jack Kennard/Flickr Creative Commons
And customers are actually paying more money for it.

A lot has been said about the virtues of a small town, but this Valley City, North Dakota coffee shop seriously takes the cake.

As WTVR puts it, The Vault sells everything you might want from a coffee shop, but there’s one glaring thing that’s missing—staff. Perhaps in an industry first, this coffee shop runs entirely on the honor system.

“At the time I didn’t realize how unique that was,” says owner David Brekke in the video below. “I thought it just made sense. I found out later, by Googling, there really isn’t anything else like it.”

Brekke and his wife, Kimberly, keep the store stocked with coffee, tea, syrups and baked goods and customers simply serve themselves. To pay for items, customers just swipe their credit card at a card reader or deposit cash or checks into a slot.

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A model like this might only work in a small town like Valley City (population 5,600) but as Brekke says, “people have been extremely honest.”

In fact, customers are even paying more than they should. “When I add up how much has been taken and how much is in the till at the end of the day, people are 15 percent more generous than thieving,” he adds.

According to their website, the cafe does experience theft on occasion but “this unusual plan has thus far been working, profits continue to rise with no one else (seemingly) the worse for it.”

While you probably won’t find a fancy French-pressed roast at The Vault, at least there isn’t a snobby barista who misspells your name on your coffee cup. The Vault also doubles as an art gallery and holds movie screenings, which you probably don’t have at your local Starbucks either.

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