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Sometimes you don’t get what you pay for


Several weeks ago, I was running behind schedule on my way to visit my mother. I was thirsty so I pulled into a conveniently located McDonald’s. To my surprise, there was a long line at the drive through, so I parked and ran in.

The person ordering at the counter was shouting at the young cashier because the item he ordered was about fifty cents less at the McDonald’s he usually frequented.

She calmly explained there could be a price difference between a franchise owned store and a corporate owned store. The guy left without his order because of the small price differential. I thought the young lady handled herself extremely well. What I felt about the disgruntled customer, however, is not fit to print.

Fast-forward to late August and my educational conference in California. I think everything is more expensive out there. Most notable is the extra dollar or more it costs for a gallon of gas.

I wasn’t shocked that menu prices were higher than at restaurants back home. However, one evening when it was my turn to pick up the tab, I was a bit surprised by the small print at the bottom of the menu. It stated, “ Your check includes a 4% surcharge to help offset the cost of State and City minimum wage increases. The surcharge is not a tip or gratuity.”

The way the bill was delivered, it was apparent that I was expected to calculate the tip based on the total, which included the surcharge. To be honest, I was taken back.

If the establishment felt it needed more revenue, it should have simply increased its prices. Unlike the guy at McDonald’s, I believe most diners, even if they noticed, would not change their orders.

But I do feel, whether it’s in a restaurant, department store or in their investments, most people like to know the actual cost of what they’re actually getting.

In the financial services field, full disclosure on investments is the norm. There’s no small print when it comes to prices and fees. Regulators even mandate the size of the printing on business cards and stationery.

People on both sides of the minimum wage debate have valid points.

My first job was at the minimum wage of $1.25 in 1967. Thanks to inflation, that’s equivalent to $9.44 today. Even at that rate, I realize it would be impossible to support a family today. But, I always thought minimum wages were a launching pad where skills were taught and good work habits were learned.

In life, I think everyone should aspire to exceed any minimum thresholds. If you’re in school, your goal should be to excel, not just pass. If in the workforce, you should strive to climb the ladder, not just put in your hours. In other words, no matter what you’re doing the goal should be to outshine.

As a consumer, I don’t like being told in small print that I’m being charged for more than what I’m actually getting. It just doesn’t sit well. Instead of listing a menu item at $20, price it at $21. Then, if I get exceptional service, I’ll tip accordingly. When I tip, I want it to be on my terms, not because of what I’m told.