Is Adding a ‘Minimum Wage Fee’ to Customers’ Tabs a Good Idea?

Instead of raising menu prices, a small business in Minnesota takes a different approach.

Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

This year the movement toward a living wage has made significant progress in many states. That includes Minnesota, where a 75-cent minimum wage hike took effect Aug. 1. But when this compelled a small café owner in Stillwater, Minn., to tack a “minimum wage fee” onto customers’ checks, it sparked a heated debate.

The wage increase from $7.25 to $8 an hour will cost Oasis Café owner Craig Beemer an additional $10,000 a year to pay six servers, he told the Star Tribune. He and his wife, Deb, wrote in a Facebook post yesterday that charging a fee for each check instead of raising menu prices is what they believe to be the “most honest and transparent way” to offset the extra cost.

On Wednesday, however, surprised to find a 35-cent fee on the receipt, a customer demanded a refund. Others took to the café’s Facebook page to express their outrage.

“So every time the minimum wage goes up you will raise the surcharge?” asked John Padgett. “Unless the .35 is stated on the door or on the menu somewhere, if you find it on your bill as you pay you can refuse to pay it,” he added.

Others disagree with the café’s approach as well. “Putting [minimum wage] fees on tickets and passing the cost on to consumers directly is strange at best, and creates an ‘us against them’ mentality while ordering dinner,” Wade Luneburg of the Minnesota State Council of UNITE HERE Unions told the Star Tribune.

Many have also expressed their support for the Beemers, noting that there are worse alternatives.

“Most businesses won’t mention it, but they will cut their employee hours,” wrote Phil Gwinn on the café’s Facebook page. “They will delay or eliminate promotions. Or, they will simply raise all the prices by a certain amount.”

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