WASHINGTON, DC (DC News Now) — As more people return to restaurants after dining rooms closed during the pandemic, consumers may spot surprise fees on their receipts.
While additional fees are not illegal, unsuspecting customers may issue with transparency shortfalls. Additional fees may account for tips, supply chain issues and even employee health care; some are called a ‘service’ or ‘wellness fee.’
“It is crazy. I don’t understand why they do that,” said Maryland resident D’Eric Thompson.
Additional fees do not exist on every receipt, Matt Baker’s café and restaurant, The Baker’s Daughter in downtown DC is among them. But because a new ‘livable wage,’ law for restaurant workers will phase in over the course of several years he’s strongly considering adding a ‘service fee’ to account for anticipated expenses.
“If I had a crystal ball, we probably won’t do a phased-in approach,” said Baker.
Baker believes restaurant owners should be transparent with customers to be aware of additional fees before they appear on receipts, saying, “I think they include it [fees] on their reservation confirmation, I think they put it on their website.”
The chef and restaurant owner went a step further, saying owners should “make sure our staff makes that well known when you get your check that a service fee is included. No need to leave anything additionally if you don’t want to. Up to you.”
“I don’t mind, to help them out? Yeah. It’s cool. If they need it, I’ll help,” Thompson added after hearing of services fees to account for higher wages.
Jason Howell, a financial advisor and adjunct professor at American University and George Mason University said, “remember, these [fees] aren’t necessarily all bad.”
Adding that “there are some jurisdictions that require that that money does go toward tips, and there are some consumers that say, ‘thank you, I could never quite figure out whether 15% or 20% made sense.”