Friday, September 26, 2008

Upscale NYC Market Charges 'Energy Surcharge'

The cost of everything seems to be going up lately, making tough times even tougher. Now a supermarket on the Upper East Side is passing an energy surcharge onto customers.

And as CBS 2 HD quickly found out, many shoppers are outraged.

At "Eli's Manhattan" customers are warned with big signs at the checkout counter.

A 1.8 percent surcharge -- for rising energy and fuel costs -- will be added to their grocery bill.

Shoppers at the upscale supermarket are used to paying more for groceries, but they aren't happy about the added charge.

"I'm really angry about that," one person said. "I won't come back."

"They're a giant rip-off," added another.

"I think it's outrageous," came another reaction. "The prices here are already high, so it doesn't seem fair."

It's a bad business move according to workplace guru Stephen Viscusi, author of "Bulletproof Your Job."

"It's really not necessary to be charging people extra right now and to be pointing it out to customers," Viscusi said. "At some point consumers feel plain ripped off."

But the owner said he wanted to cause controversy with the 1.8 percent surcharge. Instead of burying the cost in the price of groceries, he's pointing it out to get customers thinking and talking.

"To call the public's attention to how much fuel is being used in the food business," owner Eli Zabar said. "In this case, I am making the increase completely transparent to the customer."

Zabar thought the surcharge would make people angry about the rising cost of energy. Instead, they're getting angry at him, forcing him to consider scrapping the surcharge altogether.

"If the shock and awe is too great then what we're gonna do is hide it in the cost of goods itself," Zabar said.

However, Zabar said no matter how you do the math the cost of everything is going up.

If Zabar does decide to scrap the surcharge he said he will not immediately raise the price of food to make up for the lost revenue.

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