One man's gripe about surcharges at a Melbourne sushi place has sparked a heated discussion over the practice, with some questioning whether it's justified or even legal.
The Reddit post that started the debate shows a photo of a sign at a popular sushi place in Chadstone, telling customers about the surcharges they have for Sundays and public holidays, which are 10 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively.
"Saw this at Chadstone. Are surcharges a thing at food courts now? I've seen them at dine-in restaurants and cafes, but not in a shopping centre," the Redditor asked in the post.
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The post received 348 comments in less than a day, with many weighing in on the legalities and reasons surrounding the surcharges - not only at the sushi place in question but a range of hospitality businesses.
"It isn't unreasonable to request a surcharge if public holiday wages are being paid to staff," someone argued, sharing that in many cases, staff are not being paid because some owners tend to pocket the surcharge earnings.
"Disagree - build it into your pricing structure across all days. They're just using penalty rates as an excuse to squeeze more money out of customers," another Reddit user replied.
"Don't open up a business if you're not willing to pay penalty rates," another user opined.
"The same argument can be made for the business to simply not operate on Sundays/public holidays if they can't afford the wages. But no, they're greedy and want the sales, so they should pay the wage."
What the law says
The controversial topic of surcharges on weekends and public holidays is nothing new, but it is one that rears its head quite frequently, especially when customers are expected to fork out extra amid cost-of-living pressures. Business owners point out that the extra charges go towards additional operating costs on these busy days, which include paying penalty rates.
The practice is legal, according to consumer watchdog Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The ACCC acknowledges that some restaurants and cafés imposing surcharges on certain days - usually weekends and public holidays - is allowed, as long as this is displayed accordingly and does not mislead consumers.
"Restaurants and cafés are free to set surcharges, but they must provide consumers with a prominent single total price for goods and services, where they are able to be quantified at that time. This can be as simple as a separate menu or price column for the surcharge days," the ACCC website states.
"However, the menu must include the words 'a surcharge of [percentage] applies on [the specified day or days]' and these words must be displayed at least as prominently as the most prominent price on the menu. If the menu does not have prices listed, these words must be displayed in a way that is conspicuous and visible to a reader. These measures apply to pricing for both food and beverages."
There is no limit to the percentage a cafe or restaurant can impose, but the ACCC assures consumers can report those they believe are breaking these rules.
"We accept reports where people consider a business is doing something they shouldn't do. If a business breaks the rules about displaying prices, we can investigate."