What to Do If You See a COVID-19 Surcharge on Your Check

If you are starting to return to society to buy various goods and services, take a look at your receipts: you can see that the copayments associated with the ongoing pandemic have hit you.

What is listed as a COVID-19 copay can be anything. For a hairdresser , maybe $ 3 went to pay for extra cleaning supplies. In restaurants, surcharges can be used to reflect the changing cost of ingredients.

And while some of the businesses that introduced these fees on reopening have explained them through social media, signage, and other measures, many customers are still relying on it all.

When it comes down to it, companies can add fees for whatever they like. It is legal in 46 states to charge customers additional fees just for using a credit card to pay, said Ted Rossman, an industry analyst at CreditCards.com .

So while the pandemic-related surcharge may sound outrageous, it is within the scope of business. They chose to show you their temporary increased costs of doing business instead of constantly raising prices.

“I faced the COVID-19 surcharge back in late March,” said Jen Smith, who blogs on Modern Frugality and co-authored the Frugal Friends podcast. “I got iced coffee from a local company that charged me a mandatory 15% tip. I understand that small business suffers, but having made the choice in favor of abandoning me, I did not want to return. ” (Note: Smith and I worked together.)

“While few, if any, customers will enthusiastically pay more for any reason, the increase in costs seems particularly egregious when itemized. It’s hard not to notice them when they’re right there in black and white on the receipt, ”Rossman wrote .

Smith said that if you see an accusation that you don’t recognize, you should ask about it – you know, politely. And if that doesn’t suit you, you can share your feelings – again, politely.

“Many business owners are afraid and make decisions based on that fear,” she explained. If you are not happy with the premium, chances are good that other customers are thinking the same. The owner may not even be a supporter of the surcharge, but finds it necessary to make ends meet.

“Before you hit the road, check restaurant and store websites and social media feeds so you don’t get surprised at these fees,” advises consumer and shopping expert Lisa Lee Freeman .

Freeman said that while you may feel annoyed at the additional fees, “keep in mind that some businesses are trying to avoid price increases, so they are charging those fees temporarily.” As we plunge more and more into our new norm, you will likely see some of these allowances disappear. At the same time, she recommends planning higher prices, especially for food.

Smith, on the other hand, said to keep your own budget first. “People may want to support their local businesses, but you should prioritize your financial well-being,” she said. “This may mean that there is not enough financial support for the business to the extent that you would like.”

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