New fee has San Francisco’s small businesses grumbling 

Businesses where you hear the “bleep, bleep” of checkout scanners will now have to pay annual fees so that city inspectors can make sure they are accurately charging consumers.

The added cost has some business owners fuming after letters sent out over the last week told them to pay up or face fines.

Most of the business owners that received letters were unaware of the fee, according to Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California. Other businesses that use scanners didn’t get the letters, leading to confusion about whether they have to pay or not.

“The problem is that in San Francisco, every time business turns around we get hit with something else,” Hauge said. “And it’s so hard to figure out what’s the latest fee. It’s a maze out there.”

The fees were approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors in July of 2010, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Health. The fees have just come into effect now. They start at $75 and $14 is added for every register the business uses, up to a maximum of $773.

Businesses that use scanners are required by law to register with the Department of Public Health, according to the legislation, and late fees could as much as double the price.

Dan Cerf runs SF Party, a party supply store, and has dealt with many different costs running his business in San Francisco. He has to pay $117 a year now to have his registers inspected. That’s on top of the $750 he pays for the right to sell helium balloons in his store.

“If you overcharge a customer, they usually raise hell,” Cerf said. “You either take care of it there on the spot or if they find out when they get home they call you and have it taken care of. That’s the way it’s always been. Why does City Hall have to get involved?”

He also feels that there was no discussion or warning before the fee was introduced by Mayor Gavin Newsom and approved by the Board of Supervisors.

“It’s a gotcha,” Cerf said. “They sneaked another one in.”


Scanned or scammed?

- Fees for register scanners approved: July 2010
- Initial charge for checkout scanner: $75
- For each additional register: $14
- Maximum scanner fee for business: $773

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Brent Begin

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