COVID-19

As businesses reopen, some add a COVID-19 surcharge

Jasmine Garsd Jun 22, 2020
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
People at a Bangkok restaurant eat within plastic partitions set up to contain the potential spread of the coronavirus. Some businesses are adding charges for such equipment. Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

As businesses reopen, some add a COVID-19 surcharge

Jasmine Garsd Jun 22, 2020
Heard on:
People at a Bangkok restaurant eat within plastic partitions set up to contain the potential spread of the coronavirus. Some businesses are adding charges for such equipment. Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Scott Sanders owns Tobacco Barn Distillery in southern Maryland. About 50% of his revenue used to come from tastings, where people would also buy his bourbon. He’s planning to reopen soon, but he has to take new precautions.  

“We’re gonna have to get some outdoor tents, you know, like a wedding tent type of thing. And then you have to clean after all your guests,” he said. “All the tasting cups have to be … you know, you can’t reuse those cups, so they have to be disposable.”

For now, Sanders said, he’s going to absorb the cost of all that, even though his business has dropped off, down about 90% from what it once was. For his customers to come back, he said, they need to feel safe, without an extra charge. 

But some businesses are charging customers for COVID-19-related costs. Some hair salons, restaurants, dentists’ offices are charging for protective gear, more disinfectant and those Plexiglas barriers at the cashier. Sometimes it’s in the form of a clearly stated COVID-19 surcharge, often between 3% and 5%, to cover the cost of things like masks and gloves. 

Others have just quietly raised prices.

“Many customers feel caught off guard. The perception is very negative. And I will think this is much more of a public-relations issue than a financial one,” said Ted Rossman, an analyst with CreditCards.com. 

Businesses should be transparent about COVID-19-related charges, said Lynne Kizis, a lawyer in New Jersey who specializes in consumer protection. “Certainly a business is generally going to be free to raise their prices to reflect whatever increase in overhead they may have. I mean, that may be rent, insurance, labor costs, material costs.”

What companies can’t do, she said, is advertise one amount for a product or service, but then charge more. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

Give me a snapshot of the labor market in the U.S.

U.S. job openings in February increased more than expected, according to the Labor Department. Also, the economy added over 900,000 jobs in March. For all of the good jobs news recently, there are still nearly 10 million people who are out of work, and more than 4 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. “So we still have a very long way to go until we get a full recovery,” said Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute. She said the industries that have the furthest to go are the ones you’d expect: “leisure and hospitality, accommodations, food services, restaurants” and the public sector, especially in education.

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

Read More

Collapse

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.