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Doughnuts, Dishonesty, and What Makes a Holiday Disappointing
By H. Shive
Holidays started out as “holy days” – a time for rest and prayer. But there’s no rest for the wicked. Turns out, the wicked steal doughnuts and bagels…and that's how you can judge a holiday.
Don’t believe me?
To the science!
The Bagel Man and His Magic Math
Paul Feldman was an economic analyst for years. He then retired and started a bagel/doughnut delivery business. After a few years, he was delivering over 8,000 bagels a week to over 140 companies. Because he is a former economic analyst, his records are immaculate…and filled to the brim with data to scrutinize.
In an eight-year period, he delivered 1.375 million bagels and over 648 thousand doughnuts.
How often are people honest? Paul Feldman knows the answer. People are honest – on the average – 89% of the time.
What Do Bagels Have To Do With a Bad Holiday?
Because of his mountainous data, Feldman could see all kinds of trends. People are more likely to steal in companies with a large number of employees compared to smaller companies. People are more likely to steal when the weather turns bad, but people will be more generous when the weather is unexpectedly pleasant. When unemployment is high, people are more likely to steal.
People are more likely to steal bagels and doughnuts during Christmas time than any other holiday!
Overall payment rates drop 2 percent (from an 89% honesty rate to 87%) during the week of Christmas. This boost in dishonesty represents an 15% increase in theft!
Thanksgiving is almost as bad. St. Valentine’s Day is “lousy” and so is the week of Tax Day (April 15th).
Here’s another surprise. People were more honest during July 4th, Labor Day, and Columbus Day.
You would think that Christmas would the time of maximum honesty and goodwill. So why the extra bad instead of extra good?
In the acclaimed best-selling book Freakonomics, authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner reviewed this case of bagel theft in the very first chapter of their book.
They compared the holidays. How are Christmas and St. Valentine’s Day so different from Labor Day and even Columbus Day?
Because holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and St. Valentine’s represent a major financial setback and an overwhelming increase in anxiety. In contrast, holidays like Labor Day and Columbus Day are basically just a day off of work.
What makes a holiday good – or any day of any week, for that matter – is how much stress and anxiety it creates.
But since Christmas and St. Valentine’s Day are not likely to get any easier to bear in the future, things will look bleak for honesty (and doughnut sales) come the holidays.
So remember, when a high-spending holiday looms, keep an eye on your valuables. People are more willing to steal. ‘Tis the season.
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Levitt, Steven D. and Stephen J. Dubner. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side of Everything. William Morrow (HarperCollins imprint), 2005.
Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt (June 6, 2004). "What The Bagel Man Saw". The New York Times.
Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.