Down With the Upcharge

Exorbitant corkage fees at restaurants are only the beginning. A look at some of the most preposterous service charges in recent memory.

By Eric Spitznagel



A bill ending in $0.50 or more

Cost: As much as 49¢

In October, a customer at the Dutch Boy Burger in Brooklyn, N.Y., saw a charge on her receipt: “Rounding non-inventory $0.47.” Her waitress said all checks ending in $0.50 or more were “rounded up” to the nearest dollar.

Declining the cheese

Cost: $1

Food blogger José Ralat-Maldonado tweeted during his first visit to the Outpost American Tavern in Dallas: “A fee for leaving cheese off a burger?”


Drinking your own wine

Сost: $90-$95

Most restaurants have a corkage fee in the $20 range. At Per Se and Masa, two restaurants in New York’s Time Warner Center, it costs $90 (Per Se) and $95 (Masa) for a waiter to open your wine.

Reading a book without ads

Cost: $15 is willing to let people enjoy ad-free books on their Kindle Fire tablets for a price — the $15 “special offers opt-out option.”

Being a foreigner

Charge: $1,000

In fall 2012, international undergrads at Ohio State University were asked to pay $1,000 in addition to out-of-state tuition costs — the university needed a new revenue source.

Ice and no ice

Cost: $2

New York’s BLT Burger charges $2 more for whiskey served without ice. In 2011, The Darby nearby was called out for adding a $2 fee for cocktails served “on the rocks.” The restaurant’s general manager said those drinks had larger pours.

No commercials at a movie theater

Price: $1-$3

Seattle’s Sundance Cinemas’ 10-screen multiplex charges an “amenities fee” of as much as $3 a ticket. As explained on the company’s website, the fee pays for no “annoying television commercials.”

Going to the doctor’s office

Cost: $56-$268

Called a “facility fee,” it helps defray overhead for expenses like equipment, staff, and medical-records systems.

Visiting a loved one in prison

Cost: $25

The Arizona Department of Corrections requires all visitors to pay a one-time, nonrefundable “background check fee.”

Using a wheelchair

Cost: $30

Ilse Rosenberg, 86, visited Lee Nails in Wilmington, N.C., last month expecting to pay for a manicure and pedicure. An employee said the extra $30 was for “the inconvenience of her being transferred in the chair.”


Living too long

Cost: $10,000

Tom Waggener of Taylorsville, Miss., was shocked to get a bill for $10,000 for his mother’s prepaid casket in 2006. She’d lived so long that her casket of choice was no longer in stock, and finding it required a special order.


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