x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Risky business

If you want to test the human limits of honesty, simply ask people to pay whatever they like.

Some hotels in Paris are asking guests to pay what they think their stay was worth. Charles Platiau / Reuters
Some hotels in Paris are asking guests to pay what they think their stay was worth. Charles Platiau / Reuters

A hotel is not the most obvious place for an experiment that offers a moral insight into human behaviour, but a scheme run by five hotels in Paris could do just that. By allowing guests “to pay what you want”, the hotels are hoping to generate publicity and – just maybe – provide an interesting insight into human behaviour.

For the next two weeks, guests who book online at a special website will be able to stay at the three- and four-star hotels and, at the end, pay only what they think the experience was worth. It is the sort of offer that could appeal to certain budget travelers, but, perhaps, not to all cultures. Arab guests might feel the need to be more generous, while, for example, Japanese guests might feel unhappy at the lack of certainty.

A risky business, then? Perhaps. There have been other experiments offering pay-what-you-want: from restaurants, to amusement park rides to a Radiohead album. In all cases, there were people who abused the system, choosing to take the meal for free rather than paying even, say, Dh1. But overall, the experiences seem to prove that in general humans are fair-minded creatures, with the vast majority offering a fair price for a fair service. No word yet on whether the scheme will be extended to Paris’ efficient but rather malodorant Metro system.