Paying your employees is a basic cost of doing business.
We've heard a lot of complaints (and received a lot of reports) about businesses which have recently added small 1% - 5% “minimum wage” surcharges to their bills in what seems to be an attempt to send a political message about their opposition to raising the wage.
We’re listing those businesses here. We encourage you to let these companies know what you think about this practice (though of course you should always be respectful to your server).
We can stop this trend & eliminate minimum wage surcharges. Already, several prominent companies which instituted these kinds of charges have reversed themselves after hearing from customers. We hope to see more of the same. And if any business drops their charge, we'll be glad to share the news and promptly take them off the list.
What's the issue with a minimum wage surcharge?
Itemized surcharges attributed to the cost of the minimum wage are objectionable because paying the minimum wage is a basic cost of doing business, not an extra add-on to be counted separately. If there’s no line item for the electrical bill, no napkin-laundering charge called out, and no special fee levied because a few employees had to work overtime last pay period, then there’s no good reason to tack on an extra 2% and attribute it to the minimum wage.
(And by the way, if a living wage only costs 2% more, why didn’t they just pay better in the first place?)
If you run a business, your prices reflect your total costs, of course — from the cost of rent to the cost of a cleaning service and everything in between — but each cost isn't itemized on the receipt. So when a business adds a surcharge and attributes it to the minimum wage, they're making a political statement that seems to be about publicly begrudging having to pay a higher wage. And it’s probably no coincidence that some of the businesses adding these new fees have also fought against raising labor standards.
Higher wages are incredibly popular in our state and across the country, and we believe these tacked-on fees can’t stand up to public attention. We’ve already seen several prominent companies reverse themselves on these charges when their customers are heard from. And we hope to see more of the same — with your help.
Have you seen a "minimum wage surcharge" called out on your bill?
Businesses which have instituted service charges and then withdrawn them after hearing from the public:
- Kickin Boot (Seattle): tried a surcharge, then withdrew it due to customer feedback.
- Kafe Neo (Mill Creek, Edmonds, Arlington, Marysville): tried a surcharge, then withdrew it due to customer feedback.
- Tom Douglas Restaurants (Seattle): instituted a 2% surcharge, then withdrew it due to customer feedback.
- The W Hotel (Seattle): instituted a 6.5% surcharge "to help offset the cost of the Seattle Minimum Wage," then withdrew it due to customer feedback.
- Several 7-11 stores in Aberdeen instituted a 25¢ per transaction fee after the higher minimum wage took effect, but then withdrew the fee several days later due to customer feedback.
The practice of imposing larger service charges of 20% or so in lieu of tipping is a different matter. That practice is part of a larger effort to restructure compensation practices in the food service industry; this is about small itemized charges which flag wages as a cost somehow unlike any other.