Why Don’t OB and San Diego Restaurants Add ‘Free Market’ Surcharges to Customer Bills?

by on January 5, 2017 · 3 comments

in Culture, Economy, Labor, Ocean Beach, Politics, San Diego

High-end Ocean Beach and San Diego Restaurants Poised to Add Surcharge for “government mandated” Costs to Business

By Anna Daniels /San Diego Free Press

Over the past ten years consumers have absorbed higher costs at the check-out counter for all manner of goods. Remember when gasoline costs spiked and affected more than gas at the pump?

Everything from the potted plants at the local nursery to grocery items reflected an attendant price increase. Remember when the cost of coffee went up? What about the shortage of cheese and how that was reflected in higher consumer costs?

These consumer cost increases reflect everything from volatility in the commodity market to shortages caused by natural disasters to price fixing. We weren’t handed restaurant checks or grocery bills with a surcharge added for “free market” or “act of god” or “corporate greed.”

So why are some San Diego restaurants considering a surcharge on bills to cover the most recent “government mandated” wage hike which raises the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour?

attribution: Goldenkb|Dreamstime.com

Will OBceans and other San Diegans reflexively embrace the pernicious subtext that people working in service industries don’t deserve a livable wage?

The corollary to this is that San Diegans should question the legitimacy of government in the provision of correctives to the growing inequality created by the free market.

The proposed surcharge is a covert way of injecting Conservative and Libertarian ideology into your dining experience–the damn government has its fingers in everything! my waiter is probably making more an hour than I do! let the free market decide!

We’ve been here before. When the Affordable Care Act was implemented, restaurant franchise owners tacked an Obamacare surcharge on customer bills. Customers unhappy with the surcharge were encouraged by one franchise owner to reduce the amount of tip for their server. Is that the point of the proposed surcharge, to put the squeeze on your server?

Restaurants have and do raise their prices, but it is only when prices are affected by mandated wage or employee benefit increases that the surcharge delineation kicks in. High end restaurants are expected to lead the way on this–George’s at the Cove has already added a “3% surcharge in support of local and state mandates.” Note the clever use of “in support”. Noblesse oblige is alive and well.

What does it say about us if affluent people with discretionary income to spend on a high end restaurant find it potentially off-putting that their dining experience is going to cost 3% more in order to pay the people who are serving them a livable wage?

Progressives shouldn’t go along with this

What do you intend to do if you go to a restaurant and find this surcharge on your bill? Will you ask to speak with the manager and say 1) the people who work for you have the right to a livable wage and I support that; 2) if you need to raise your prices to absorb rising costs, for whatever reason, please do so and let me decide whether I can afford to patronize your restaurant.

Are you willing to take a stand on this?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

fstued January 6, 2017 at 9:27 am

The notice of a surcharge is just trying to blame the govt for the price rise. What I wouyld like to see would be the price I will have to pay when all is said and done. If want a surcharge thats fine but then I want to know how much the broccoli costs and the rice. Lets break everything down. Telling me about the surcharge is just a political statement.
Tell me what the price is with all the costs rolled in even tip. Then I’ll lknow if I can afford the service. Pay a fair wage, give a fair price and people will pay it.


RB January 6, 2017 at 10:33 am

Just think of the surcharge as part of the tip. Or better yet get rid of tipping, make the surcharge 15% and count this as a tip for all the employees, not just the wait staff……


Frank Gormlie January 9, 2017 at 11:06 am

The following comment about dining at the OB Warehouse was left to the same article over at SD Free Press:
“Dined at OB Warehouse last night. I wasn’t aware until the bill came that 3% surcharge was added. A “Dear Customer” card was presented with the bill explaining the surcharge. I emailed CRG complaining about the surcharge and the response, while civil, basically said, other cooler cities accept it, so just shut up & take it un-hip San Diego!! As of last Thursday, after numerous complaints, our new City Attorney is investigating so I am forwarding all info to her office. I also note that on the reverse side of the “Dear Customer” letter was a list of charities supported by CRG. I choose not to support “San Diegans Against Lawsuit Abuse” (how can this be an actual legit charity). While many of the listed charities are reputable, I prefer to choose my own charities, thank you.”


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