Nathana, an Echo Park resident, stopped by the House of Spirits liquor store a few weeks ago and bought $11 worth of merchandise. But, much to her surprise, she was informed that the House of Spirits requires credit card users to buy at least $20 worth of goods or pay a 50 cent surcharge. Nathana told the employees that the policy and fees violated federal and state laws. The employees were not pleased:
I informed them that they are breaking the law and they almost kicked me out of the store! I reported them to various agencies who are going to look into it because they are not only violating the law but they are charging people to use their credit cards for purchases below $20 which is illegal. Can you imagine how much money they’ve made on their charges?
The House of Spirits is far from the only neighborhood merchant following such credit card policies. Retailers – including independent neighborhood stores – have long complained that credit card processing fees often leave them with little or no profit on low-priced items, forcing them to impose minimums or fees. Those policies have irritated many shoppers, including the blogger behind Atwater Newbie,who earlier this year wrote about challenging an Atwater Village car wash over its $8.99 credit card-purchase minimum.
A new federal financial law does permit merchants to impose a minimum $10 minimum on credit card. But, as Atwater Newbie pointed out in a follow up story, California as well as some credit card companies like Visa prohibit check out fees on credit purchases.
Back at The House of Spirits, a pair of signs advising buyers of the $20 minimum credit card purchase policy still hang over the cash registers. A clerk said this morning that a manager was not available to talk about the policy.
New credit card laws help merchants but what about customers? WalletPop
Photo by Colin/Flickr