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'Don't need more negativity': Surrey business association against COVID fee
SURREY, B.C. -- As more businesses reopen their doors, consumers are noticing something new when they pay the bill: a so-called COVID-19 surcharge.
Dean Barbour, executive director of the Fleetwood Business Improvement Association, believes the new fee should be scrapped.
"We don't need to have more negativity around COVID-19," Barbour tells CTV News. "Consumers were reaching out to the businesses, and on social media, and were calling it a tax and that really raised a lot of concern for us."
He says it caused confusion since a tax would mean it’s implemented by the government whereas this surcharge is a fee that some businesses have decided to charge to offset some of the added costs of operating during the pandemic.
He says there may be some unintended consequences when customers see that extra line on their receipts.
"We've heard people say, 'Well that's gonna come out of the tip,' or 'I’ll be getting the service and I won’t be coming back.'"
Barbour says there are new expenses that owners now have to take on -- such as personal protective equipment and Plexiglas installation -- therefore, he suggests raising prices instead of adding a surcharge.
"I think consumers would be willing to pay for that peace of mind and comfort knowing that the business is going out of their way to reopen to help their customers," he explains.
Barber shop owner Rami Matti of R Star Hair Salon defends his decision of charging customers a $5 COVID fee since he reopened this week.
"I think that's a fair price," Matti says.
When a customer walks through the doors, they must sanitize their hands, put on gloves, and wear a mask and cape.
“This material is costing us anywhere from $1 to $1.50 each," Matti says.
With extra sanitation measures, he’s also accepting fewer appointments.
“That basically cut me down from taking two to three clients in an hour to take only one client per hour. So that's technically cutting my profit 50 per cent or more,” he says.
Customer Bahadur Takhar doesn’t mind paying the new fee.
“I think it’s reasonable especially during a time like this. Businesses like this are facing extra costs,” he says.
Barbour says only a handful of businesses in the BIA are implementing a COVID surcharge.
Over at Salon Couture, the owners decided not to add a fee and are charging $2 for a disposable mask if a customer forgets to bring their own.
They have stopped offering discounted days, however, such as Seniors’ Day.
They say it’s important to keep their returning customers happy.
“Our phones have been ringing non-stop and their loyalty is really really what makes us keep going. So we're really thankful for that,” says receptionist Valerie Olsen.
There’s no consensus on the COVID surcharge but owners agree that the cost of doing business has jumped. In the coming weeks, they say they will have to re-evaluate whether prices should also go up.