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Restaurants, dentists, and hair salons are adding coronavirus surcharges to bills

Published May 28th, 2020 3:30PM EDT
Coronavirus surcharge
Image: Laura Thompson/Shutterstock

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  • Costs have exploded for businesses that have been closed for weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic and which are just now starting to open back up.
  • Around the country, some customers haven’t been happy to see a coronavirus surcharge included on their bills and receipts.
  • The businesses insist this is only a result of things like the cost of new cleaning supplies that have come with trying to maintain a safe environment in the age of the coronavirus.

As costs keep mounting for businesses like restaurants that are reopening around the country and trying desperately to lure back customers who’ve been spooked by the coronavirus, some of those businesses are trying a risky tactic that’s angering a broad swath of their clientele: Adding coronavirus surcharges to customer bills.

This practice is happening around the country especially at restaurants, hit hard by the sudden evaporation of their business (and complete closures, in most cases) followed by a reopening with dining rooms capped at a reduced capacity. Raising prices is one way to compensate, as is adding special charges to receipts. And while that’s drawn ire from many customers, other hard-hit businesses — everything from dentist offices to hair salons — are likewise increasingly turning to the same tactic.

Some customers have been turning to social media to vent and take out their frustration stemming from these new charges, which they see as unfairly punishing them when they’re giving these businesses their much-needed patronage right now:

From the businesses’ perspective, though, it’s not as simple as that. For one thing, costs are skyrocketing, and the expectation that customers have to now spend time inside these businesses while preserving their health — it costs more money to do that now, in the form of everything from manpower to new cleaning supplies.

“The cost of reopening includes all the extra supplies that we need and all the cleaning supplies that we need,” Rachel Gower, owner of Houston-based Upper Hand Salon, told local ABC affiliate KTRK. Accordingly, her salon is adding a $3 “sanitation charge” to guests’ bills, though she adds: “It’s worth it! It’s absolutely worth it!”

This trend is also being seen at dentist’s offices that are sometimes adding copays to defray the added cost of PPE (personal protective equipment). At the same time, the American Dental Association is trying to get insurance companies to absorb that cost, instead.

Meanwhile, one Missouri restaurant — Kiko Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Lounge — has decided to end its coronavirus surcharges on bills and just go ahead with price increases after is employees were harassed over the surcharges. “We’re not doing this to take advantage of you guys!!” the restaurant pleaded in one social media post. “Stop calling names to my employees!! … due to prices going up & low margin we have to raise our prices.”

The frustration from customers is totally understandable, especially since many may be facing financial hard times of their own. On Thursday, for example, we learned that another 2.1 million people filed for unemployment in the past week, pushing the total coronavirus toll in terms of the number of Americans thrown out of work by the pandemic to almost 41 million.

At the time, even though we’re seeing the easing of stay-at-home restrictions in most states, it will take business suppliers significant time to recover and return to normal operation. As a result, shortages will continue and costs will likely continue to rise.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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