COVID-19-related surcharges unpopular but businesses warn of other price increases
MONTREAL -- Customer complaints are leading some Montreal businesses to do with away with a COVID-19-related surcharge, but business owners warn that prices won't necessarily go down.
Linda Girolamo, owner of Little Italy's Napoletana Pizzeria said her restaurant introduced a $4-per-person fee to cover new sanitary measures upon re-opening. Among those measures were bottled water, individual wrapped bread, butter and salt.
“We are no longer serving pitchers of water, just so as to not cross-contaminate. We are no longer serving bread in a basket, it comes in a bag and we encourage people, for that $4, you would get your kit,” she said. “You want to drink the water, bring the bottle home.”
Girolamo said customers rejected the surcharge. But other businesses have also increased their prices. At NDG barbershop Damps, haircuts have gone up in price by $10.
“Before, we were 30 minute appointments and now we're 60 minute appointments,” said Sage Holder. “We have to supply them with masks, gloves if they need, hand sanitizer and all our equipment went up in pricing, too.”
Charles Tanguay of the Quebec Consumer Protection Office warned that some surcharges are illegal. While businesses can raise prices, customers must be warned when they first sit down or they can challenge the fee.
“It can't be a surprise for the customer. It can't come with the bill at the very end of the meal,” said Tanguay.
Girolamo said that while customers were warned, she will still get rid of the fee due to the influx of complaints but a more general raising of prices could still be an option.
“I guess here in Quebec we're a society that likes hidden costs, like in alcohol, cigarettes and gas,” she said.