Some Businesses in the US Hit Customers with Coronavirus Surcharge

Category: Business


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. take a toll / teɪk ə toʊl / (idiom) – to cause a bad or harmful effect

    Stress is taking a toll on my health.

  2. resort to (something) / rɪˈzɔrt tʊ / (phrasal) – to do something because there are no other options

    The businessman resorted to selling his business because of low profits.

  3. stay afloat / steɪ əˈfloʊt / (idiom) – to have enough resources to survive

    Budget cuts helped the business stay afloat during the crisis.

  4. keep up with (someone/something) / kip ʌp wɪθ / (idiom) – to do something to be at the same pace as someone or something

    The company is speeding up its production so that its supply will keep up with the demand.

  5. take advantage of (something) / teɪk ædˈvæn tɪdʒ əv / (idiom) – to use something in an unfair manner to gain something for oneself

    The CEO took advantage of the company’s crisis to lay off employees.


Read the text below.

Some businesses in the United States are hitting customers with surcharges to recover from losses due to the pandemic.

As the crisis continues to take a toll on the economy, businesses like dental clinics and hair salons have resorted to additional charges to boost their profits and stay afloat. Some restaurants have also added surcharges because restrictions to seating capacity have decreased their profits. Similarly, logistics company UPS is planning to include a surcharge for bulky delivery packages.

A few customers expressed their frustrations regarding the surcharges on social media, saying that they find the additional fees unfair. One Twitter user said that she will only pay an additional fee if she has been informed about it beforehand.

In response, some business owners asserted that additional charges are necessary to cover expenses for measures that will ensure the safety of staff and customers. Rachel Gower, a hair salon owner, said she has added a sanitation charge of $3 to buy cleaning supplies and other equipment.

On the contrary, a restaurant in Missouri has decided to remove its pandemic surcharge and increase prices instead because of complaints from customers. In a social media post, it clarified that it was only trying to keep up with rising operational costs, and it did not intend to take advantage of the crisis.

Following in the footsteps of other businesses, the tourism industry reportedly may soon add surcharges, considering how the global health crisis has affected its sales. Many experts, like Brian Kelly of the popular travel website “The Points Guy,” predict that people’s bills for their next vacation will have extra charges.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think it’s better for businesses to add a coronavirus surcharge or to increase the prices of their products/services? Explain.
• How can businesses effectively inform customers about the additional charges/price increases (e.g. show a breakdown of the additional costs)? Discuss.

Discussion B

• Aside from adding surcharges and increasing product/service prices, what can businesses do to recover from losses (e.g. launch promos to attract more customers)? Discuss.
• In your country, do you foresee a lot of businesses closing down in the next few months because of the pandemic? Why or why not?