You’ve probably heard about “tipflation” — restaurants prodding customers to leave higher tips for servers and staff.
Now there’s another trend to watch for: Restaurants adding sneaky fees to bills.
These surcharges, which typically range from 3% to 5%, are often intended to cover higher inflation, employee healthcare costs or credit-card processing charges.
And to be sure, all businesses are entitled to recover their operating costs.
But this isn’t how you do it.
These fees are intended solely to mislead customers by keeping menu prices lower, even though the total cost of a meal will be more expensive.
Moreover, customers may not be aware of the added fees until the end of the meal, when the bill arrives.
That is, to put it mildly, a deceptive business practice.
Worse, at least tips go to underpaid servers. These surcharges almost always go to the establishment (yes, the same establishment that had the chutzpah to run a bait-and-switch on pricing).
The National Restaurant Assn. says about 15% of restaurants now slip these fees onto bills.
It’s estimated that there are more than 1 million restaurants in the United States, so we’re talking at least 150,000 eateries now playing this game. And the percentage is likely growing.
What’s the solution?
Let’s follow the example of our European cousins, who passed a law requiring business to include all taxes and fees in prices.
That way there are no surprises at the cash register.
This may be tougher for profit-challenged restaurants that want to look like their menu prices are reasonable.
But any business that feels comfortable tricking customers to boost revenue is a business that’s saying it doesn’t value your patronage.