Fees added to SF restaurant checks

June 24, 2008 7:22:22 PM PDT
San Francisco restaurants are tearing a page from the playbook of cell phone companies. They are charging add-on fees that appear to be a tax, but are not.

The city of San Francisco has mandated that most employers provide health insurance for workers. Consumers support that goal, but getting to it is generating some complaints.

Receipts with added fees are what the gripes are all about.

Can you figure out some of the hidden charges?

"It looks like a hidden fee or even a second tax and that can rub people the wrong way," said Joe Rideout from Consumer Action.

That's true, and most consumers 7 On Your Side spoke with supported paying extra, so restaurant workers get health care.

"Health care is important so that's not unreasonable," said one restaurant patron.

But many complain disclosure is a problem. Some restaurants list the charge on their menu, others do not and some just roll it into the prices.

"I don't think anyone is trying to trick anyone out of money," said executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association Kevin Westlye.

Still, there is confusion. At Pomodoro the cards back fired.

"We've got some controversy about how we are telling people," said Pomodoro chef/owner Adriano Paganini. "Originally we had a card that we put in the 'check present' that explained what we were doing and the meaning of it. But people thought we are making a political statement, meaning that we were against health insurance. We were telling people that you voted for it so you must pay four percent more because of that, but that was never our purpose."

Now, the cards are gone and a disclaimer has been added to the menu instead.

Over at Houston's, patrons were generally unaware of the charge, because it was only listed on the receipt.

"It is not upfront," said one patron.

Now Houston's has made some changes as well.

"As of Saturday morning we printed it on our menus and we have a sign at the front door so they can also see that," said Marge Uriu-Nocifera from Houston's.

"So since we made inquires?" asked 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney.

"Absolutely. It hadn't been an issue, but once it came to our attention we took care of it," said Uriu-Nocifera.

"To add a certain fee for the businesses electricity or costs for providing health care or a parking space for the manager, consumers don't need to worry about this. The business should really reflect all the costs of doing business should really be disclosed up front on the menu," said Ridout.

Some restaurants charge no fee at all, while others do $1 per person. Some even charge as much as four percent of the bill.

Before ordering find out what you are going to have to pay in total, and you can get that information from your wait person.


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