The GTM's post on an unfortunate lunchtime incident at Ray's Hell Burger prompted me to think about a hidden fee that I recall finding shocking the first time I encountered it: corkage.
Now, I'm no expert here. My experience working in restaurants is limited to KU or line cook duties. I've never waited tables or performed Maitre[sic] d' duties, but I'm no stranger to the life restaurateur. I couldn't have been more than 19 or 20 the first time I got hit with a line-item gratuity, and I do recall many of my former workplace associates bludgeoning me with complaints of non-tipping customers who had indeed paid the gratuity (the line-item gratuity isn't paid out in cash at the end of a server's shift, at least at the places I've worked). So perhaps it's a bit odd that I was pushing 30 when I first encountered corkage fees.
For those of you still scratching your heads wondering what I'm talking about, it is common practice for most restaurants (ones that sell wine, anyhow) to assess a surcharge for patrons who elect to bring their own bottle of wine to dinner. The economics here are perhaps a little less clear than you might think. On one margin, perhaps BYO wine represents forgone revenue for a lucrative sale, but that assumes inelasticity and ignores second-order effects like the generosity of the drunk and the possibility of repeat play. All of this is very interesting, and good fodder for discussion (indeed, I had a nice nosh with a couple of my colleagues yesterday and it's all we discussed) but probably less relevant for EE than the surprise factor (or element, if you prefer).
Mungowitz was upset that he overpaid for service in Arlington. That's fine, but he's probably got a harder case to say that he was completely ambushed by some unknown hidden fee. Even without forewarning, there is enough tacit knowledge in society about certain unadvertised fees that a typical person shouldn't be exceptionally shocked when they show up. Corkage fees, at least the first time you encounter them, probably don't qualify. I assert (completely without any rigorous evidence) that more folks know about a gratuity surcharge than about corkage fees. There's at least a heuristic for a gratuity surcharge: tipping at eateries is pretty much ubiquitous. There exists no such heuristic for corkage--it's my bottle of Thunderbird (ha ha, just kidding, I prefer Ripple) so who does this restaurant owner think they are making me pay for something I already own? Why, that's a violation of euvoluntary exchange, right there. My conventional rights of ownership are being trampled. Forsooth!
Naturally, the extension is to imagine what other hidden fees might not be euvoluntary. Bank fees, credit card fees, processing fees, taxes(?), land use fees, airline fees... any number of surprising and unexpected transfers not directly related to the point-of-sale exchange of good or services for currency would qualify. Hidden fees clearly induce ex post regret, but does this imply that the exchange itself ought not have occurred? What fraction of trades end up being submarginal? How do consumers adjust?
h/t Zac Gochenour and Blake Johnson