ConsumerWatch: Bay Area Card Company Sells Online Via Honor System

BERKELEY (CBS 5) — A Bay Area start-up has come up with a unique way of selling greeting cards that relies on new technology and old-fashioned honesty.

The company, called Tapgreet, puts free-standing card displays in coffee shops. Each display holds hundreds of different cards, all out in the open and unguarded.

A sign on the display directs customers to use a quick response (QR) code to access the Tapgreet site to browse the collection, choose and pay for a card. It then gives them a precise location to find their card in the display.

“It’s kind of like a Redbox for greeting cards,” Tapgreet co-founder Paul Bussi told CBS 5 Consumerwatch.

“We look at it as changing the way greeting cards are sold,” Bussi said. Among the changes: displaying the cards on their sides to take up less space, and putting them in a place where people have time on their hands, such as Berkeley’s Espresso Roma.

“It’s just a place where it makes sense to browse for a card,” Bussi said.

But it doesn’t always go according to plan. “Sometimes they take the cards to the register and try to pay for them there,” said Espresso Roma manager Jason Hood. Hood said most customers catch on quickly, however.

Tapgreet is not the first company to test consumers on their honesty. Over the summer, drink maker Honest Tea conducted experiments in thirty cities to see if people would pay for its drinks at unmanned pop-up stores. Oakland and San Francisco were found to be among the most honest places in the nation, with nearly everyone paying, even when no one was watching.

Bussi said the business is working out well so far. He said he may make adjustments, if needed. “We imagine it as a kiosk that’s in hundreds of places when we fast forward a couple years,” he said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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