Restaurant surcharge causes indigestion

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A friend and I went out for a lovely Christmas Eve dinner at Satay Bistro. The food there is quite good and the décor was festive but when we received our bill we were hit with an unexpected item on the receipt called a “non-cash adjustment” for 3.5% of the total bill.

When we flagged down our waitperson to inquire about the charge, we were told that since we were paying by credit card, we were responsible for the additional charge.

Now it made sense why the table next to ours pulled out a wad of cash to pay their bill. Seemed kind of strange, but they must have been aware of this policy change while we were not. It seemed funny to us that after 30 years of conditioning consumers to pay by debit or credit card and not cash, now we would be expected to carry around large sums of cash.

We were further informed that management had decided to instill this new policy to reward cash payers rather than charge everyone for the credit card processing fees.

While the waitperson called it a cash discount, the reality is it was a credit card fee surcharge. If this were truly a discount then the bill would have been reduced for the cash-paying patrons to reflect their cash purchase so they would not be subject to paying the credit card processing fees.

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HEALTH CARE BILLING: A Coeur d’Alene reader called to share a concern she recently experienced with a local eye doctor and to warn others. She was having some eye issues but her regular eye doctor had no appointments available for six months. Thinking she’d like to know what was wrong before then, she called another local eye doctor’s office to book an appointment. She was able to get in the following week.

She is on Medicare, so she paid her copayment of $35. Upon arrival to her appointment, she was presented with about 12 pages of documents to initial and sign. She said she was rushed through the process because the doctor was waiting to start her session. She had her eyes examined and after the tests were completed she asked about the condition of her eyesight.

At this point, she was told if she wanted to find out the results of her vision tests she would need to pay an additional $45. When she pressed for answers she was told again that she would need to pay the $45 for that information. The reader left frustrated without the information and called Pacific Source, her Medicare supplemental insurance provider, to complain about the lack of information she received for a test she believed she had paid for through her insurance.

While awaiting information from Pacific Source, she said she received a bill in the mail from the doctor’s office for $15 for a test she apparently agreed to pay for as part of the paperwork she was initially asked to fill out, initial and sign.

When she called and questioned the staff about the test she supposedly agreed to, they were unable to tell her what the test was for but did tell her she had initialed the box that allowed them to charge her the $15. Pacific Source did make an inquiry to the doctor’s office but then told the reader they don’t get involved in a doctor’s billing practices.

From what we can gather, it appears that the doctor will administer the eye test as part of the $35 copayment from patients, but if you want the results, it is going to cost you an additional $45. And now another $15 because of a box our reader initialed that allowed them to charge her that for a test she says she still doesn’t remember receiving and the staff wasn’t able to tell her what it was for.

Please contact me if you’ve had similar issues or if you’re a provider and can explain what’s happening.

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WALMART TEXT ALERT: Several Coeur d’Alene readers have contacted me to report that they received a text message from Walmart last week telling them: “Congratulations (your name) your code printed on your last receipt is among 7 we randomly picked for $1,000 Walmart gift card promotion.”

I also received one of these text messages. The code is different on each message and there is a link to click on to supposedly access the promotion.

The problem is that according to Walmart, there is no such promotion going on. So if you get one of these text messages don’t click on the link because it’s a scam. And remember it is best not to click on any links from people you don’t personally know.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. I’m a full-time copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.

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