In most cases, the listed price of a product is also its actual price.
But sometimes this is not true. Airlines, cell phone providers, and restaurants (among other businesses) occasionally add non-obvious “bonus” costs to the final fee.
Sometimes, these are temporary: in New York City in 2021, a ~10% “COVID surcharge” was authorized (and then later removed).
These surcharges can also be permanent: in San Francisco, some restaurants include a ~3–5% “healthy SF” surcharge (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthy_San_Francisco), a (rare) 5–10% surcharge for either dining-in or takeout, and a (very rare) 1% surcharge to encourage responsible agricultural practices.
In an extreme case, a meal might include 9% sales tax + 15% tip + 3.5% health surcharge + 1% sustainable agriculture + 10% dine-in fee, which results in 38.5% higher prices (i.e. a $45 meal would actually cost $62.33).
Some jurisdictions allow arbitrary surcharges: e.g. “due to higher ingredient prices, we are adding a $1 surcharge for each sandwich.”
You might ask: why not just increase the prices by $1? Well, then the items on the menu would look expensive!
Assuming these fees are not subjected to any legal limits, the following proposal presents itself:
- List everything on the menu with an absurdly low price (Figure 1)
- Then, have a small “menu supplement” section with a bunch of additional fees (for things like “paying employees” or “renting a building”).
As an added bonus, online restaurant-search web sites might think that the artificially low menu prices are the real prices. This will lead to that restaurant being displayed with an unrealistically low price in the search results.
Some jurisdictions forbid hidden supplemental fees, but this might be legitimately legal in certain cities!
PROS: Restaurant owners: make your restaurant more appealing in online search results with this one questionable tip!
CONS: Customers might get annoyed if the fees get too excessive. Or they might just tolerate them! Only one way to find out.
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