Dear Sun Spots: Some restaurants have a small charge for “plate sharing.” I’m wondering if this is technically legal since a person has paid for the food, which is then theirs. Can’t they share it if they want to since they now own the food? – No Name, Lisbon.

Answer:
Regarding the first question: Sun Spots spoke with Dick Grotton, the president and CEO of the Maine Restaurant Association, 5 Wade St., P.O. Box 5060, Augusta, Maine 04332-5060, (207) 623-2178, who says it isn’t just a case of plate charging. Grotton says if it only happens once or twice, it’s not an issue and restaurants typically give it away for free. But should a restaurant’s owners notice the trend increasing, they must question how long they can absorb the extra cost of plate sharing.

You, I and our families are not merely paying for the extra plate. We are paying for the wait service we receive, the restaurant’s ambience, the cutlery, the heat and hot water and the linen, for instance, and wear and tear as well as upkeep and maintenance. There is more involved than just the extra plate. Grotton says that in an extreme case, for instance, a family of 10 comes into a restaurant. For dessert, they bring along great-grandma’s cake. The wait staff takes the cake into the kitchen and cooks/chefs or helpers cut and serve it and box up leftovers. That’s service for those 10 family members, including additional cutlery and dishes, which has to be washed, etc., and the cake didn’t even come from the restaurant’s kitchen.

Dear Sun Spots: I notice that some local merchants have signs saying that there is a $5 to $10 minimum purchase required before they will accept a charge card. Then I was told that merchants are not permitted to do this. What’s the truth? – Confused in Canton.

Answer: Sun Spots believes this was answered in an earlier column but thought it was something readers would be interested in hearing again.

According to www.gofso.com, some stores require consumers to spend at least $20 (or some other minimum amount) to pay for purchases by credit card. They engage in this practice because they and their banks do not want the expense of processing a credit card transaction involving a small amount of money. This practice defeats one of the major purposes of credit cards – convenience – and may force credit card users to spend more than they want to. In addition, minimum charge requirements vary from merchant to merchant, and there are no regulations requiring disclosure of these minimum purchase levels.

Visa’s and MasterCard’s regulations prohibit minimum charge amounts. American Express’ regulations do not explicitly prohibit minimum charges, but its policy is to discourage any merchant practices that create a “barrier to acceptance.” Amex does prohibit “discrimination” against the Amex card, however, so if a merchant has no minimum charge for Visa and MasterCard, the merchant may not discriminate against Amex by imposing a minimum charge. If a store requires a minimum purchase for Visa or MasterCard, point out to the store manager that the practice is prohibited by the card companies.

Dear Sun Spots: Can you or one of your readers tell me where I may buy a travel coffee mug with stainless steel outside and a porcelain liner? My husband saw a truck driver with one and didn’t ask him where he got it. The porcelain makes the coffee taste better than the plastic one. Thank you. – N.M., Minot.

Dear Sun Spots: Help! I would appreciate knowing if there is anyone in the Lewiston-Auburn area who would be able to snow-blow and shovel as the person who did this for me is no longer available. I am a senior citizen and am unable to do it myself. I can be reached anytime as I have an answering machine. I can be reached at (207) 784-2809. – No Name, Auburn.

Answer:
Contact Don Castonguay, Lewiston at (207) 784-8401. Readers looking for snow plowing in the Wales area can contact Dean Hinkley at (207) 375-6163.

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be posted at www.sunjournal.com in the Inform Us section under Press Release.


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