South Africa has a reputation for crime. One need only flit through the daily papers or online news wires to be reminded of the fact.
When it comes to petty crimes, shoplifting is at the top of the list, with an estimated 170 cases being reported per day – and those are just the ones we know of. So what then inspires someone to open up an unmanned organic goods store where the customer is trusted to take what they need and place their cash in a box?
“In spite of our national crime statistics, I believe the majority of South Africans are good and honest people,” says Sigqibo Nonhnoho, general manager of The Munching Mongoose.
Nonhnoho says they believe in the good things in life: health, joy, family and, of course, this beautiful country. All their products are sourced from local, organic small-scale farms, for customers who shop at the store, based at 27 Boxes in Melville, Johannesburg. But was there a chance the store would be robbed blind and this would essentially be a horrible and expensive failure?
“Sure, and a few of our business neighbours actually pointed this out to us, with one even saying ‘if it’s not nailed down, it would also be stolen’,” laughs Nonhnoho. He says, however, that unless “we trust that people are inherently good, then there’s no hope” for the human race.
“South Africans are actually a special kind of awesome flavour. Where else in the world would you find the spirit of Ubuntu, gogos, oumas, boets, brus and bras? Where, despite all our differences, we can come together and take on the world,” Nonhnoho says.
It’s this faith in human nature that has resulted in only honest customers entering the store since it opened last month.
“We have not had a single theft since our opening. Every item can be accounted for after tallying up the cash from the box.”
Of course, there was just one little incident where someone picked a R80 jar of jam and dropped R10 into the box. We would like to believe they paid all they had at the time, rather than steal it outright. They offered a small token in the true spirit of Ubuntu and we are more than fine with that,” says Nonhnoho.
He says that whichever way you look at it, the shop is a success. So much so, that they’ve decided to run it for a few more weeks in June. From fresh honey to olive oil and flour, The Munching Mongoose places 10 of each item on its shelves with the price indicated.
Customers can then either place cash in the box or pay via SnapScan.