WILMINGTON — For the owners of two small business operations in Wilmington, the honor payment system has worked out.
A farm produce wagon along Rombach Avenue and Adventure Cove Miniature Golf just off the SR 73 Wilmington Bypass have in recent years made use of an honor system, asking their customers to pay for the harvested vegetables and fruits or the outdoor recreation even though the businesses are not looked after by staff.
Farmer Isaac Garland of Fayette County was told by a Franklin County man who offered hay on the honor system to horse owners that he’d be surprised if he tried the approach — the Columbus farmer had found most people paid for what they took. Hearing that made Garland more open to starting his own self-pay wagon stocked with farm products.
“I didn’t have enough time to sit out there the whole time,” Garland explained. So he parked a wagon in the town of Washington Court House to see whether it would pan out, and it did.
Because that close-to-home endeavor proved successful, he chose to branch out to Wilmington where the past two or so years he has set a wagon along busy Rombach Avenue.
Before moving to the First State Bank parking lot this year, the wagon was located on a side street under development off Rombach but where it could still be seen by passing motorists. However, it turned out that the deposit box and its contents were like a sitting duck there.
The cash/check deposit box was probably broken into at least a dozen times, Garland said, and the deposit box itself was removed and carted off multiple times.
“Without a doubt last year was the worst year. This year it’s turned around,” said Garland, a member of a farming family.
The parking lot site this year has lights at night and is closer to Rombach where passersby might notice an act to forcibly break into the cash box or spirit it away.
He hopes to return to Wilmington next year and he may add a credit card reader as a payment option. Customers this year could pay with a smartphone app, which for one thing, meant less money in the cash box to steal.
Adventure Cove went to self-serve and an honor system after the pandemic struck.
Its owners, Beth Rice and her son Derek, both have full-time jobs apart from the miniature golf course, and Beth said to cover it during their off-hours, well, “it’s a lot to go to” after doing their other work.
After they decided upon the self-serve and self-pay model, they saw it was working out, she said.
They offer both a cash app or a cash deposit box as payment options. Golf clubs and balls can be selected from an unlocked box outdoors on a patio, ready to go 18 holes.
“It’s mostly been really good,” Rice said, referring to the honesty of customers more than to the number of them.
“People will even return all the balls for us — be our employee for us and restock,” she commented.
On the other hand, a sign on the office door indicates that during the first two putt-putt seasons after going unstaffed, there was more damage than before to the pirate-themed course decorations and golf clubs.
But paying a staffer to receive customers’ admission fees would, with the current customer volume, be a practice that would lose money, said Rice.
Overall, people have been very honest, she said.
On occasion, someone will call saying they couldn’t get the cash app to work, and they didn’t have enough cash on them and were short a dollar and could they mail it later?
The outdoors putt-putt season is almost over, she noted, and they’ll be putting away the benches, but while the weather is nice they’ll leave the clubs and balls out for the self-paying customers.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.