Pay what you want (or not!) cafe in Washington

What would you do if you went to a cafe and didn’t have to pay unless you wanted to? Would you pay? Or take advantage of free food and coffee?

Terra Bite Lounge in Washington is one such place. This “upscale voluntary cafe” has no price-list and no cash register. You can eat and drink whatever you like, and pay if you want and when you want, by putting the money in a slot by the counter.

The cafe has been running for two years now, with surprising success. You’d think they’d have gone bankrupt by now, but they are actually breaking even.

Some people pay less than they should, some pay more, but most people do land up paying. According to the owners, its success boils down to peoples honesty, and the fact that this policy makes most customers feel trusted and valued. Also, the freedom of paying when they want (for example) just once a week has been a big contributor to its prosperity.

Their site screams that they are not a charity, they are not saints, and not activists. By maintaining an upscale decor and flexible payment system, they attract a decent and loyal crowd.

If I went to such a cafe, I would pay what I’d pay for a coffee anywhere else or I’d feel like a cheapskate. However, if the coffee was bad I’d have to force a penny out, and I’d never go back. What would you do?