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Trust commerce at Gates Lake

Entrepreneurs put their faith in honest visitors with money to burn

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For many entrepreneurs developing the ability to generate income while sleeping or at play is an elusive goal. Seems Mike Roger and a few other people in the area around Gates Lake have found a way to make it happen. Their strategy, though, requires a huge leap of faith.

The Poole Creek resident has, for the last three years, been operating a small food stand selling off surplus produce and flowers grown on his hobby farm. This isn't really a big deal — many small farm operators do this. The difference in this case is that his sales booth is unmanned. The inventory available for purchase is at the end of his driveway with a cash jar. When customers arrive and pick what they want, they simply drop their money into the jar and leave with their purchase.

The operation is based solely on trust.

"It is open all the time — honour system," says Roger. "People drive by, stop and put their money in a jar and we just go up there every hour or two and maintain it so its win-win for us because we don't have much overhead."

Not much in the way of customer service either.

"We empty the cash box regularly and just leave a $10 float," Roger chuckles as he explains the simplicity of his operation.

Roger isn't the only one in the Gates Lake area using this business strategy. He says a number of people in the area around him are also operating trust operations. The strategy works, he says, because people come to the area prepared to spend money.

"There's nothing else for people to spend their money on up here," he says. "People go camping and they have $100 in their pocket like they do every weekend but they get up here and there's nowhere for them to spend their money so when they're on their way home or on their way here they've just got it to burn."

According to the hobby farmer, it just makes sense as there's an increasing amount of traffic visiting the area and many of the people who live around him are seasonal workers who commute to jobs in Whistler. Operating some kind of business off their land is a great way to augment seasonal income.

Roger says he knows of a firewood operation and a collectibles store near him that are operating successfully from the same business model.

When it comes to theft, Roger says it's merely the cost of doing business but in his three years he hasn't lost much.

"If someone is really that desperate, they can have it," Roger says. "We've only had a few incidents in the three years."

Under the trust-based system it is hard to know if thieves have come by.

"We find 99.99 per cent of the time people are honest and honoured to be part of that system," says Roger.

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