Since 2010, people in New York State have been paying an extra 8.875 percent for one of their favorite foods. What makes this charge so strange isn’t the amount (it’s the standard state sales tax on most goods sold) but the very specific rules for when and how it is applied. You’ll pay this premium for all sliced bagels (eaten in or taken out), as well as for whole bagels eaten in the store. The fee can be avoided only by ordering unsliced bagels for off-site consumption. Despite some initial displeasure from the carb-loving public, it doesn’t seem that the extra eight or nine cents per bagel has cut down on consumption of this iconic nosh.
Think you’re saving on a delivery charge and the cost of a tip by picking up your takeout order? Think again. Some restaurants are now charging a fee just for the food to leave the restaurant. The extra charge is designed to cover the costs of the packing materials, these eateries claim. But when you’re billed 25 cents or more per container, chances are good a profit is being made.
Even the world’s most abundant natural resource is sometimes priced as an add-on at eateries around the globe. Consumers in New York, London, and California, for example, have reported being charged anywhere from 10 cents to a dollar for tap water at fast-food chains and five-star restaurants alike. Some restaurant owners have attributed the charge to the cost of disposable cups or the fact that the water is filtered before it’s served. Other places may be thinking more globally: Numerous restaurants across the United States participate in the annual UNICEF Tap Project, which asks patrons to donate $1 or more for tap water, with all proceeds going to water-sanitation efforts around the world. For more information, visit thetapproject.org.
Kelly Senyei is an associate editor at Gourmet Live and author of Food Blogging for Dummies (Wiley, spring 2012).