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From W5J coverage --

The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to decide whether states can prohibit merchants from imposing a surcharge on customers who use credit cards.

Some businesses, particularly smaller retailers, prefer that consumers pay with cash because credit card transactions come with additional costs, known as swipe fees.

The merchants challenging the state laws say the prohibition on surcharges violates their free speech rights because it prevents them from communicating freely with consumers about pricing options. They say the laws mean they’re not allowed to say they will charge credit card customers more, even though they are permitted to say they will offer a discount for cash purchases.

Lower courts have issued conflicting rulings on the validity of such laws, which are in force in 10 states, according to court documents.

The high court agreed to consider a case from New York, where that state’s law is being challenged by a hair salon, an ice-cream parlor and several other businesses.

The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year sided with the state and rejected First Amendment claims brought by the merchants. The appeals court said the New York law regulated business conduct, not speech.

more: http://on.wsj.com/2cYQJU8

P.S. Tie will leave undisturbed the CA2 decision upholding NY law
 

Member Summary
Most Recent Posts
Why can't the merchant just jack up all their list prices by 3% and then offer a "3% discount for cash purchases" ? Prob... (more)

exclusivelysid (Oct. 03, 2016 @ 2:33p) |

I think we'd be surprised at how many bottles break, get shoplifted, go missing, etc.  And it always seems to be the exp... (more)

tuphat (Oct. 03, 2016 @ 2:38p) |

They certainly can, and some do.  But they have to advertise the higher price.

cestmoi123 (Oct. 04, 2016 @ 11:03a) |

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"They say the laws mean they’re not allowed to say they will charge credit card customers more, even though they are permitted to say they will offer a discount for cash purchases." the stakes are low

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rufflesinc said:   "They say the laws mean they’re not allowed to say they will charge credit card customers more, even though they are permitted to say they will offer a discount for cash purchases." the stakes are low
  It's a little more complicated than that.  Imagine dropping your car off for diagnosis & repair; shop calls back & says repair will cost $1500.  You authorize the repair, even though you're currently short of funds, but you know that shop accepts credit cards.  You go to pick up your car and pull out your card, and guy says there will be a surcharge to use the card.  You thought the shop was using a "single sticker" pricing policy, when in fact they are trying to use a "dual sticker" system, and that's what the law in about 10 states is trying to address.

P.S.  BTW, before making uninformed pronouncements, maybe ask yourself:  if it's so meaningless, why all the lawsuits in multiple circuits?

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tuphat said:   
rufflesinc said:   "They say the laws mean they’re not allowed to say they will charge credit card customers more, even though they are permitted to say they will offer a discount for cash purchases." the stakes are low
  It's a little more complicated than that.  Imagine dropping your car off for diagnosis & repair; shop calls back & says repair will cost $1500.  You authorize the repair, even though you're currently short of funds, but you know that shop accepts credit cards.  You go to pick up your car and pull out your card, and guy says there will be a surcharge to use the card.  You thought the shop was using a "single sticker" pricing policy, when in fact they are trying to use a "dual sticker" system, and that's what the law in about 10 states is trying to address.


 

  every place I've been to that uses surchages has either a sign at the register, or a note on the invoice. 
P.S.  BTW, before making uninformed pronouncements, maybe ask yourself:  if it's so meaningless, why all the lawsuits in multiple circuits?
Really? You're wondering why people sue for random things?

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rufflesinc said:   
tuphat said:   
rufflesinc said:   "They say the laws mean they’re not allowed to say they will charge credit card customers more, even though they are permitted to say they will offer a discount for cash purchases." the stakes are low
  It's a little more complicated than that.  Imagine dropping your car off for diagnosis & repair; shop calls back & says repair will cost $1500.  You authorize the repair, even though you're currently short of funds, but you know that shop accepts credit cards.  You go to pick up your car and pull out your card, and guy says there will be a surcharge to use the card.  You thought the shop was using a "single sticker" pricing policy, when in fact they are trying to use a "dual sticker" system, and that's what the law in about 10 states is trying to address.


 

  every place I've been to that uses surchages has either a sign at the register, or a note on the invoice. 
P.S.  BTW, before making uninformed pronouncements, maybe ask yourself:  if it's so meaningless, why all the lawsuits in multiple circuits?
Really? You're wondering why people sue for random things?

  1.  You still don't understand: under applicable laws in 10 states, merchant CAN"T SURCHARGE, sign or no sign.  That's what merchants are fighting.
2.  In my experience, "random" or frivolous lawsuits are rarely pursued to the federal Court of Appeals or Supreme Court level, it's just too costly. BTW, you can't appear pro se in SCOTUS unless you are a lawyer.
 

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tuphat said:   
rufflesinc said:   
tuphat said:   
rufflesinc said:   "They say the laws mean they’re not allowed to say they will charge credit card customers more, even though they are permitted to say they will offer a discount for cash purchases." the stakes are low
  It's a little more complicated than that.  Imagine dropping your car off for diagnosis & repair; shop calls back & says repair will cost $1500.  You authorize the repair, even though you're currently short of funds, but you know that shop accepts credit cards.  You go to pick up your car and pull out your card, and guy says there will be a surcharge to use the card.  You thought the shop was using a "single sticker" pricing policy, when in fact they are trying to use a "dual sticker" system, and that's what the law in about 10 states is trying to address.


 

  every place I've been to that uses surchages has either a sign at the register, or a note on the invoice. 
P.S.  BTW, before making uninformed pronouncements, maybe ask yourself:  if it's so meaningless, why all the lawsuits in multiple circuits?
Really? You're wondering why people sue for random things?

  1.  You still don't understand: under applicable laws in 10 states, merchant CAN"T SURCHARGE, sign or no sign.  That's what merchants are fighting.
2.  In my experience, "random" or frivolous lawsuits are rarely pursued to the federal Court of Appeals or Supreme Court level, it's just too costly. BTW, you can't appear pro se in SCOTUS unless you are a lawyer.

1. Your example of being hit with surprise surcharge is irrelevant then.
2. you can't appear but you can file a petition for cert

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tuphat said:   
  1.  You still don't understand: under applicable laws in 10 states, merchant CAN"T SURCHARGE, sign or no sign.  That's what merchants are fighting.

 

Exactly. These laws are there to protect against deceptive advertising. Ad says product X is $Y, they accept cash or credit. Customer comes in with credit card, scum company says "That'll be $Y + $.50 + 5% because you are paying with credit!". Or, alternately "It's only Y if you're wearing a blue shirt. Since your shirt is red, we charge 5% extra over the advertised price".

Discounting for cash is completely different and that's why it's allowed. "merchants" don't like it because it doesn't let them advertise deceptively.

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rufflesinc said:   
tuphat said:   
rufflesinc said:   
tuphat said:   
rufflesinc said:   "They say the laws mean they’re not allowed to say they will charge credit card customers more, even though they are permitted to say they will offer a discount for cash purchases." the stakes are low
  It's a little more complicated than that.  Imagine dropping your car off for diagnosis & repair; shop calls back & says repair will cost $1500.  You authorize the repair, even though you're currently short of funds, but you know that shop accepts credit cards.  You go to pick up your car and pull out your card, and guy says there will be a surcharge to use the card.  You thought the shop was using a "single sticker" pricing policy, when in fact they are trying to use a "dual sticker" system, and that's what the law in about 10 states is trying to address.


 

  every place I've been to that uses surchages has either a sign at the register, or a note on the invoice. 
P.S.  BTW, before making uninformed pronouncements, maybe ask yourself:  if it's so meaningless, why all the lawsuits in multiple circuits?
Really? You're wondering why people sue for random things?

  1.  You still don't understand: under applicable laws in 10 states, merchant CAN"T SURCHARGE, sign or no sign.  That's what merchants are fighting.
2.  In my experience, "random" or frivolous lawsuits are rarely pursued to the federal Court of Appeals or Supreme Court level, it's just too costly. BTW, you can't appear pro se in SCOTUS unless you are a lawyer.

1. Your example of being hit with surprise surcharge is irrelevant then.
2. you can't appear but you can file a petition for cert

  1. It's relevant in 40 states.
  2. Yea, but you'll need a lawyer to argue your case.  

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tuphat said:   P.S. Tie will leave undisturbed the CA2 decision upholding NY law
  Tie? There can't be a tie in a Supreme Court cas...wait, oh yeah.

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jutici said:   
rufflesinc said:   
tuphat said:   
rufflesinc said:   
tuphat said:   
rufflesinc said:   "They say the laws mean they’re not allowed to say they will charge credit card customers more, even though they are permitted to say they will offer a discount for cash purchases." the stakes are low
  It's a little more complicated than that.  Imagine dropping your car off for diagnosis & repair; shop calls back & says repair will cost $1500.  You authorize the repair, even though you're currently short of funds, but you know that shop accepts credit cards.  You go to pick up your car and pull out your card, and guy says there will be a surcharge to use the card.  You thought the shop was using a "single sticker" pricing policy, when in fact they are trying to use a "dual sticker" system, and that's what the law in about 10 states is trying to address.


 

  every place I've been to that uses surchages has either a sign at the register, or a note on the invoice. 
P.S.  BTW, before making uninformed pronouncements, maybe ask yourself:  if it's so meaningless, why all the lawsuits in multiple circuits?
Really? You're wondering why people sue for random things?

  1.  You still don't understand: under applicable laws in 10 states, merchant CAN"T SURCHARGE, sign or no sign.  That's what merchants are fighting.
2.  In my experience, "random" or frivolous lawsuits are rarely pursued to the federal Court of Appeals or Supreme Court level, it's just too costly. BTW, you can't appear pro se in SCOTUS unless you are a lawyer.

1. Your example of being hit with surprise surcharge is irrelevant then.
2. you can't appear but you can file a petition for cert

  1. It's relevant in 40 states.
  2. Yea, but you'll need a lawyer to argue your case.  

  1 . oookay. But the litigation isn't in those states!
under applicable laws in 10 states, merchant CAN"T SURCHARGE, sign or no sign.  That's what merchants are fighting.

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Bend3r said:   Exactly. These laws are there to protect against deceptive advertising. Ad says product X is $Y, they accept cash or credit. Customer comes in with credit card, scum company says "That'll be $Y + $.50 + 5% because you are paying with credit!". Or, alternately "It's only Y if you're wearing a blue shirt. Since your shirt is red, we charge 5% extra over the advertised price".
I figured the laws were there because the credit card companies bribed the lawmakers.  Also, even without a law, doesn't the agreement between the payment processor and merchant have a similar rule prohibiting surcharges for credit cards?
Discounting for cash is completely different and that's why it's allowed. "merchants" don't like it because it doesn't let them advertise deceptively.
Can they advertise the cash price (and maybe put in the fine print "assumes cash discount")?

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govenar said:   
Discounting for cash is completely different and that's why it's allowed. "merchants" don't like it because it doesn't let them advertise deceptively.
Can they advertise the cash price (and maybe put in the fine print "assumes cash discount")?

  You mean like gas stations do in some states? Luckily they can't do that in my state because of these laws....   The price on the billboard is always the maximum price.  Not price before undisclosed surcharges.  I'd guess maybe somewhere could advertise both the cash discount price and the non-cash price side-by-side in printed ad.... I've personally never seen it and don't know if they legally can or can't.

Guess what percentage of gas stations offer "cash discounts" here? ZERO. Thus demonstrating that allowing surcharges is not about "educating" the customer or allowing extra options, it's about Hiding the costs from the customer in add-on fees and preventing the customer from fair comparison shopping.  If they already have you there to make the purchase, why would they discount using cash??  Nevermind that cash might have an equal or higher cost to "process" in some circumstances...  If it was really about what these groups are claiming, then "cash discount" policies would be the norm everywhere they're not allowed to surcharge.

A merchant is always free to not accept credit cards as a form of payment, just like they can choose not to accept checks or not accept cash.
A cash discount also clearly allows encouraging customers to use a form of payment the merchant prefers (And it's not uncommon even at large scale, look at Target with RedCard discount, BBY with extra rewards points on BBY credit purchases, etc), but doesn't allow them to advertise deceptive prices.  The merchant agreements all allow cash discounts.  Just like the state laws all allow cash discounts.

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Bend3r said:   
govenar said:   Can they advertise the cash price (and maybe put in the fine print "assumes cash discount")?
  You mean like gas stations do in some states? Luckily they can't do that in my state because of these laws....   The price on the billboard is always the maximum price.  Not price before undisclosed surcharges.  I'd guess maybe somewhere could advertise both the cash discount price and the non-cash price side-by-side in an ad.... I've personally never seen it and don't know if they legally can or can't.

Guess what percentage of gas stations offer "cash discounts" here? ZERO.  ...
 

Here in California, which is supposedly one of the 10 states that has a law against surcharge for credit, some gas stations advertise both cash & credit prices, like "cash $2.50, credit $2.60".  I wonder if they could legally just advertise "cash $2.50" without mentioning the credit price.  And could they advertise just "$2.50" without mentioning cash or credit, and when you go to pay they'd say "that includes a cash discount"?  All of that seems like it'd be acceptable under a law that doesn't allow surcharge for credit but does allow discount for cash.

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The last one definitely wouldn't be ok.

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Goodbye Surcharges!!!!!!

Hello Convenience Fees!!!!!

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Doesn't the supreme court have better things to do?

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Gas stations in many states post the cash and credit prices. GasBuddy now shows both also (a pet peeve of mine that they finally changed).

As noted, it is permissible to provide a cash discount, but not to charge a surcharge for a credit card.

Many years ago I bought a gift with a credit card. The gift was returned by me because it wasn't the right size (and they did not have the right size available at all - archery bow case). Merchant attempted to charge me a fee for a credit card return. I refused to pay it, told them it was illegal to do so, and was not posted in their store anyway. I also worked for a bank at the time and told them that the bank would take action against them. They backed down.

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vnuts21 said:   Doesn't the supreme court have better things to do?
  SCOTUS is free to pick and choose which cases it decides to hear. Most of the discussion has been on the benefits of disallowing surcharges. SCOTUS' focus is on the constitutionality of laws. In this case whether the laws in these ten states violates the 1st amendment of the Constitution. They also took on a case on the validity of "scandalous, disparaging trademarks": https://consumerist.com/2016/09/29/supreme-court-will-hear-arguments-on-validity-of-scandalous-disparaging-trademarks/. Another case about violation of first amendment rights.

"Lower courts have issued conflicting rulings on the validity of such laws, which are in force in 10 states, according to court documents".  SCOTUS also steps in when "a number of these courts reach different conclusions about an issue of federal or constitutional law, the Supreme Court may step in and decide the law so that all areas of the country can then operate under the same law." Which is likely the case here.

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Amex tells me to pay the surcharge and then dispute the surcharge amount. This is after I tell the merchant is illegal to do that in California. When they don't care to listen, I dispute it. Then the entire amount is in dispute until it gets resolved so they are out the money until they talk to amex for not following the law.

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govenar said:   Here in California, which is supposedly one of the 10 states that has a law against surcharge for credit, some gas stations advertise both cash & credit prices, like "cash $2.50, credit $2.60".  I wonder if they could legally just advertise "cash $2.50" without mentioning the credit price.  And could they advertise just "$2.50" without mentioning cash or credit, and when you go to pay they'd say "that includes a cash discount"?  All of that seems like it'd be acceptable under a law that doesn't allow surcharge for credit but does allow discount for cash.
 

I've seen some gas stations in VA and SC that advertise a cash price, don't really advertise a higher credit price, but charge it anyway.

What's really confusing is if you use gift cards (at BP, Shell, etc). Sometimes, you get the cash price, and sometimes you get the credit price.

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govenar said:   
Here in California, which is supposedly one of the 10 states that has a law against surcharge for credit, some gas stations advertise both cash & credit prices, like "cash $2.50, credit $2.60".  I wonder if they could legally just advertise "cash $2.50" without mentioning the credit price.  And could they advertise just "$2.50" without mentioning cash or credit, and when you go to pay they'd say "that includes a cash discount"?  All of that seems like it'd be acceptable under a law that doesn't allow surcharge for credit but does allow discount for cash.

  
My favorites are the ones that have "with car wash" in print you can't read until you've already started to pull in.

On topic, these merchants are fighting a pointless battle. From a semantic point of view, a "cash discount" sounds friendly to a consumer while a "credit card surcharge" sounds like you're being a penny-pinching dick even though the net result is the same. A local dive bar whose greasy burgers I enjoyed put a sign up one day stating they were charging a 3% surcharge for credit card payments. I haven't been back to that place since.

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centrifuge41 said:   I've seen some gas stations in VA and SC that advertise a cash price, don't really advertise a higher credit price, but charge it anyway.
 

VA and SC don't have laws against surcharges though.  Here's a couple articles that list the states that do:
http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/credit-card-convenie...
http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/business-surcharge-c...

The website used by my landlord for rent payments (in CA) seems to have careful language related to this: they charge a "convenience fee" for both ACH & credit payments, but give an instant "rebate" of that fee if you pay via ACH.

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govenar said:   
centrifuge41 said:   I've seen some gas stations in VA and SC that advertise a cash price, don't really advertise a higher credit price, but charge it anyway.
VA and SC don't have laws against surcharges though.  Here's a couple articles that list the states that do:
http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/credit-card-convenie... 
http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/business-surcharge-c... 

The website used by my landlord for rent payments (in CA) seems to have careful language related to this: they charge a "convenience fee" for both ACH & credit payments, but give an instant "rebate" of that fee if you pay via ACH.

  Many companies (i.e. utilities, landlords, etc.) outsource the payments to a third-party so they don't have to worry about the rules.

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Bend3r said:   
govenar said:   
Discounting for cash is completely different and that's why it's allowed. "merchants" don't like it because it doesn't let them advertise deceptively.
Can they advertise the cash price (and maybe put in the fine print "assumes cash discount")?

  You mean like gas stations do in some states? Luckily they can't do that in my state because of these laws....   The price on the billboard is always the maximum price.  Not price before undisclosed surcharges.  I'd guess maybe somewhere could advertise both the cash discount price and the non-cash price side-by-side in printed ad.... I've personally never seen it and don't know if they legally can or can't.

  
Here in SC we do have the gas stations who post the Cash price on their billboard.  You won't know the credit price until you're at the pump.  BP does the same thing...they put the BP card price on the sign and everyone else pays something different.

We do also have liquor stores (only place I've seen this practice) who have a shelf tag with two prices.  One is the credit and one is the cash price.  It's usually a decent amount less if you pay cash.  

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From a link above :
"Surcharges are also illegal in 10 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas."


In Oregon and Washington I do some gas stations with signs that advertise cash price and credit card price. I don't see any other common signage or discounts/surcharges for either. I don't recall seeing anyone else advertise cash discounts.

Visa/MC/Amex rules forbid their merchants from charging a surcharge too as far as I know don't they? So even in the absense of a state law forbidding surcharges are the merchants allowed to do it per the CC rules? I thought thats what stopped merchants charging the surcharges in general.

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jerosen said:   Visa/MC/Amex rules forbid their merchants from charging a surcharge too as far as I know don't they? So even in the absense of a state law forbidding surcharges are the merchants allowed to do it per the CC rules? I thought thats what stopped merchants charging the surcharges in general.
  Not since 2013.  From Visa merchant q&a:

"As a result of a legal settlement to resolve claims brought by a group of U.S. merchants, merchants in the U.S. and U.S. territories may add a surcharge to certain credit card transactions, starting January 27, 2013. Merchants who choose to surcharge must follow consumer disclosure and other requirements agreed to as part of the settlement. "

https://usa.visa.com/content/dam/VCOM/download/merchants/surchar...

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tuphat said:   
jerosen said:   Visa/MC/Amex rules forbid their merchants from charging a surcharge too as far as I know don't they? So even in the absense of a state law forbidding surcharges are the merchants allowed to do it per the CC rules? I thought thats what stopped merchants charging the surcharges in general.
  Not since 2013.  From Visa merchant q&a:

"As a result of a legal settlement to resolve claims brought by a group of U.S. merchants, merchants in the U.S. and U.S. territories may add a surcharge to certain credit card transactions, starting January 27, 2013. Merchants who choose to surcharge must follow consumer disclosure and other requirements agreed to as part of the settlement. "

https://usa.visa.com/content/dam/VCOM/download/merchants/surcharging-faq-by-merchants.pdf

  That does still include "Q. Can I choose to surcharge Visa credit cards and not surcharge other card brands? Yes, however, merchants must surcharge Visa on the same terms and conditions as any equal or higher cost competitor that imposes limits on surcharging".  Which means if they accept Amex they likely can't add one.

edit: from Googling, it appears Amex  voluntarily changed their rules as well to allow the practice, even though they weren't a party to that lawsuit settlement.

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brooke789 said:   
Bend3r said:   
govenar said:   
Discounting for cash is completely different and that's why it's allowed. "merchants" don't like it because it doesn't let them advertise deceptively.
Can they advertise the cash price (and maybe put in the fine print "assumes cash discount")?

  You mean like gas stations do in some states? Luckily they can't do that in my state because of these laws....   The price on the billboard is always the maximum price.  Not price before undisclosed surcharges.  I'd guess maybe somewhere could advertise both the cash discount price and the non-cash price side-by-side in printed ad.... I've personally never seen it and don't know if they legally can or can't.

  
Here in SC we do have the gas stations who post the Cash price on their billboard.  You won't know the credit price until you're at the pump.  BP does the same thing...they put the BP card price on the sign and everyone else pays something different.

We do also have liquor stores (only place I've seen this practice) who have a shelf tag with two prices.  One is the credit and one is the cash price.  It's usually a decent amount less if you pay cash.  

  SC does not have the laws against surcharging. I meant in states like TX, they can't do that.
The second example you give is probably discounting, not surcharging. They're two very different things. As you point out, there's no way to know their surcharge until you go in or stop at the pump, so you can't compare prices between different gas stations from looking just at their signage. Clearly that is not consumer friendly and is not transparent pricing.

I can only make some wild guesses as why a liquor store as an example would be more keen on giving cash discounts. Maybe a portion of their customer base is low-income alcoholics and they might have an affinity to only using cash and looking closely at the pricing so they can get the absolute most ounces of liquor for the $'s they scraped together? This doesn't apply in the gas station example. In the gas station, if you've already driven up to the pump and stopped you already have a significant sunk cost. it's not reasonable to drive to every station and stop to compare the actual prices to potentially save $1. It's probably also not reasonable to go between liquor stores and compare the price on each item to the penny, either, but maybe some of their clientele is not very reasonable even if you neglect those that are walking and/or unemployed and thus have "$0" transportation or opportunity costs.

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Bend3r said:   
I can only make some wild guesses as why a liquor store as an example would be more keen on giving cash discounts. 

  Not-so-wild-guess:  cash transactions make it much easier to evade income and sales tax liabilities.

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tuphat said:   

  Not-so-wild-guess:  cash transactions make it much easier to evade income and sales tax liabilities.

  I probably made a very poor and incorrect assumption that liquor licenses/regulations would make that hard to do.

rated:
tuphat said:   
Bend3r said:   
I can only make some wild guesses as why a liquor store as an example would be more keen on giving cash discounts. 

  Not-so-wild-guess:  cash transactions make it much easier to evade income and sales tax liabilities.

  i'm thinking of dropping a dime on this place with the IRS

https://www.yelp.com/biz/pyung-taik-restaurant-niagara-falls

waited 45 mins for korean apps, then another 15 mins for the entrees.  Sign in the place says "TODAY IS CASH ONLY" so I try to negotiate with him to pay a surcharge, and he acts like I'm crazy and says he's cash only for the last 10 years.

$160 for six people. NO TIP!

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Why can't the merchant just jack up all their list prices by 3% and then offer a "3% discount for cash purchases" ? Problem solved right?

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Bend3r said:   
tuphat said:   

  Not-so-wild-guess:  cash transactions make it much easier to evade income and sales tax liabilities.

  I probably made a very poor and incorrect assumption that liquor licenses/regulations would make that hard to do.

  I think we'd be surprised at how many bottles break, get shoplifted, go missing, etc.  And it always seems to be the expensive ones ...
 

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exclusivelysid said:   Why can't the merchant just jack up all their list prices by 3% and then offer a "3% discount for cash purchases" ? Problem solved right?
  
They certainly can, and some do.  But they have to advertise the higher price. 

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