Some Businesses Are Adding a COVID-19 Surcharge to Your Bill
The COVID-19 pandemic has touched almost every facet of our lives. Things certainly are not the way they used to be. We had gotten accustomed to paying taxes on some products and services. We had also gotten accustomed to adding a tip to our total at restaurants, barbershops, and beauty parlors.
The food industry has been hugely impacted and many restaurants and bar owners are finding ways to keep themselves in business. According to recent news, those businesses are adding a COVID-19 surcharge to customers' bills to help defray the costs of opening and remaining open.
The COVID-19 surcharge is an extra fee added to your bill at some businesses such as restaurants, bars, hair salons, barbershops some other establishments.
It is a small, temporary fee of about 5 percent of the total price. The purpose of the extra charge is to help businesses keep from increasing food prices during the pandemic. Kiku Japanese Steakhouse in Missouri required customers to pay a COVID-19 surcharge instead of raising menu prices.
Restaurants in places like California, Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri have shown their surcharge on via social media so customers will not be shocked when they see it on their bill.
The extra charge is usually minimum based on the total. While the extra fee is very small, it will add up over time as more customers return to the establishments.
Restaurants need the extra fee to help them offset some of the costs of reopening with a limited number of customers. Besides, the restaurant has to pay for protection that didn't cost them anything before the pandemic.
Goog’s Grub and Pub in Michigan is a burger place that has begun to charge a COVID-19 surcharge. Owner Brad White says, “We’re just trying to pay the bills so we can stay open until this thing is over."
Ocean State Job Lot is giving its customers an option to pay a 2 percent surcharge. The money is divided among employees so they can get a $2 dollar-an-hour raise.
Is COVID-19 Surcharge Legal?
Some people are asking if it is legal for businesses to attach a COVID-19 surcharge to their bill. Attorney Laura Clubb said, "Yes, it probably is because the pandemic has put a strain on businesses that might need support." She added that it takes money to make establishments safe for their customers. For instance, it costs money for the installation of plexiglass and other barriers for customers to maintain social distancing. Those costs are passed on to customers.
There are no laws on the books for or against a pandemic surcharge. Clubb concludes that she doesn't think passing on a cost to customers is illegal. She says most people don't have a problem with adding a small amount to their bill to help businesses stay open. She said eating out is not a necessity, and if people are concerned about the surcharge they should just wait until the temporary charge is lifted.
Gregory Frank, a partner at Frank LLP Class Action Litigators, said on The Today Show that adding a surcharge is legal, especially if a business discloses it to customers in advance.
Brian Stack, owner of Bootleggers BBQ in Missouri, said his regular customers seemed to understand about the extra fee. However, others complained so much that the surcharge was removed, and prices on the menu were raised.
Is COVID-10 Surcharge Fair?
While some customers may think the surcharge is not fair, it helps businesses because of supply issues, protection costs, and fewer customers. The extra fee is allowing establishments to remain open instead of closing their doors for good.
A sushi restaurant in Missouri required a 5 percent COVID-19 surcharge rather than raising their menu prices. Some customers complained while others said it was just a small price to pay to keep the restaurant in business.
Not Just Restaurants
Restaurants are not the only businesses adding a COVID-19 surcharge. Marc Harris of a Newbury Street hair salon sent a letter to his customers letting them know in advance that there will be a surcharge to help with the extra protection while they are in the facility. Harris attaches a facility fee of $4 for a single service appointment and a fee of $8 for appointments that involve more than one service. Hair salons in Houston, Texas are charging a $3 sanitation charge.
A Jacksonville, Florida dentist’s office reportedly started charging a $10 per appointment fee for personal protective equipment.