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Gas surcharges aren't disappearing with lower pump price

| Monday, Oct. 20, 2008

At Rialto Pizza in Greenfield, a 16-inch large pizza costs $10.99 plus tax if you pick it up. The same pizza is $12.67 plus tax to have it delivered.

The more expensive pie doesn't come with a can of soda, extra cheese or sausage, but it does come with a 10 percent delivery surcharge.

"I would absolutely drop the surcharge if gas went (down), but I can't right now," owner Bruce Famili said.

Like Rialto, many local businesses that passed the buck of rising fuel costs onto customers have no intention of dropping their surcharges despite declining gas prices.

Famili added the delivery fee when gasoline hit $1.99 a gallon in summer 2005. He said he can't afford to drop the surcharge because his food suppliers pass surcharges onto him.

"Everything we buy is very expensive now," said Alei Bueak, manager of Parma Pizza in Shadyside, which implemented a 50-cent delivery fee instead of raising menu prices. Bueak didn't recall when the surcharge was implemented.

"We didn't raise our prices when every item of food doubled or tripled," he said. "So we added the surcharge."

The cost of a gallon of gasoline in Western Pennsylvania has dropped 72 cents during the past month and $1.10 since June, according to AAA.

At Wai-Wai Chinese Cuisine in Bloomfield, a $1 delivery surcharge is directly tied to high gas prices, manager Christopher Mettick said.

The restaurant, which opened four months ago, hasn't thought about eliminating the fee because gas prices still are too high, Mettick said.

"If gas came down under $3 and we knew it was going to permanently stay down, we'd think about getting rid of it," he said. "But the surcharge goes toward gasoline for delivery drivers. Otherwise, they wouldn't make any money."

Yellow Cab Company developed a fuel surcharge scale in 2004 "when gas prices started to get a little crazy," said Jerry Campolongo, the company's general manager.

The surcharge is $1.15, down from more than $2 when gas prices hit a record high this summer, he said.

"Every time gas prices go up or down, (the surcharges) adjust accordingly," he said. "We bring all 300 of the cabs in and place a sticker in the window that lets the public know."

Fox's Pizza Den, which has franchised locations in 31 states, including more than 120 outlets in Pennsylvania, has not mandated a delivery surcharge, but most stores have one, said Ken Crosby, director of operations at the Murrysville-based company.

"I don't think (a surcharge) will ever go away 100 percent," he said. "With the price of insurance and gas, deliveries in general are just too expensive to do."

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