New charge on dinner tab is in bad taste
The latest hidden mandatory add-on is a “health” charge added to restaurant bills. This scam cropped up first in San Francisco, but you can count on it to spread.
Restaurant and Catering Industry By Ed Perkins, Tribune Media Services
February 28, 2010
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Nothing succeeds in the travel industry like a bad idea. The latest hidden mandatory add-on is a "health" charge added to restaurant bills. As far as I know, this scam cropped up first in San Francisco, but you can count on it to spread.
The rationale for this one is to cover the employers' mandatory contribution to the City's "Healthy San Francisco" health-coverage system. The charge actually is levied on employers, but at least some restaurants are adding a few dollars or percentage points to each customer's bill to cover this charge.
The restaurants' excuse for assessing this charge separately is to let customers know how much they're paying for employees' health coverage. That's the same excuse hotels use when they add "resort" or "housekeeping" fees to unsuspecting guests' room bills. It's the same excuse airlines would use to exclude fuel surcharges from their advertised fares if the Department of Transportation would allow them. And it's sheer nonsense. Employees' health insurance is no less of a cost of doing business than rent, property taxes, food costs, security services and all the other inputs businesses require to operate. To single out health care for a separate surcharge is unwarranted.
The restaurants adding this fee self-righteously proclaim, "It's not hidden; we print a notice on our menus." But that, too, is nonsense: Presumably, restaurants could apply that same rationale for extra fees to cover the cost of electricity, heat or linen service. I haven't seen any reports yet that San Francisco hotels are adding a similar charge. But hotels aren't shy about piling on other fees and charges.
So far, I haven't heard of "health" fees anywhere other than San Francisco. But, as noted, bad ideas travel fast, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it copied in one form or another by restaurants in other areas.