Hidden lockdown costs 'crippling' business owners

By Angie Brown
BBC Scotland News

image copyrightStefano Rossi
image captionStefano Rossi, owner of Stefano's Fish and Chips in Edinburgh's Morningside, said his earnings were being "whittled away to nothing"

Some business owners in Scotland are calling on their customers to pay with cash - saying the hidden costs from card payments are "crippling" them.

The surge in electronic payments due to coronavirus guidance has left small businesses with hundreds of pounds of extra charges each month.

Restaurateurs also said charges for increased takeaway deliveries were running into thousands of pounds.

And some publicans said they could not afford table-ordering app fees.

'No tax dodge'

Stefano Rossi, owner of Stefano's Fish and Chips in Edinburgh's Morningside, said his earnings were being "whittled away to nothing".

He said: "Before the lockdown, I used to pay about £40 a month on card machine charges but now I've been paying £400 a month.

"I really need customers to return to paying with money now as all the charges are crippling my business.

"Some customers are seeing the sign I have put up and asking me if I'm trying to tax dodge, and I'm having to explain to them that could not be further from the truth.

"I declare everything and the reason for my sign is I just want to stop all these charges."

He added he was paying £550 a month extra on Just Eat charges since the lockdown began.

"People just don't realise that when they pay £10 for a takeaway order we only receive £8.10 and that is if we use our own driver," he said. "Just Eat charges 14% on every order plus a 50p service charge and it's 35% if you use their driver.

"The delivery order costs are just too much now and I would urge customers to please start coming back to the shop and to use money."

Nadeem Amgid, owner of Yayas Grillhouse in Edinburgh's Colinton Mains, said there were a catalogue of charges involved with paying electronically.

He said: "People don't realise it costs us more if they pay electronically and even more if they pay over the phone.

image copyrightNadeem Amgid
image captionTakeaway owner Nadeem Amgid said he wanted his customers to be aware of all the hidden costs involved in cashless transactions

"The charges even vary depending on which card customers use.

"I've seen a huge difference in my card charge bill since the lockdown and am now paying £500 more on charges a month.

"Then there are the third party delivery charges which you were almost forced to join when the lockdown started as that was the way people were ordering food.

"Before the lockdown, I was spending about £600 a month on Just Eat and Uber Eat charges. But since the lockdown, I'm spending £3,480 a month."

He added: "People think we want money over card payments for tax reasons but it's not that. It's because the electronic payment charges have become a real burden."

Antonio Baiano, owner of the Napole Pizzeria restaurant in Edinburgh's Corstorphine, said he was only surviving because everyone in his family had been helping.

image copyrightAntonio Baiano
image captionRestaurateur Antonio Baiano said he was struggling with his new delivery costs

He said: "I wish people would start using money again because it is costing me so much currently.

"I didn't do delivery before the lockdown but now I've had to join Just Eat and Uber Eat.

"The more money I make the more they make and the more you work the less profit is for you. I've been working 12 hour days during the lockdown but seen less profit because I have to pay so many charges.

"I've been giving £2,800 per month to Just Eat and Uber Eat.

"The costs are a lot but the customers don't know about it."

High commission costs

Zaheer Aslam, of the business podcast Chattin with Z, said: "Small business owners have been telling me they are concerned that, between the fees they are now paying for the increased card machine use and the costs for using third party companies, it is not sustainable.

"They are saying to me they want customers now to return to spending money on-site so they don't have to pay the high commission costs to third party companies.

"With more card payments and less cash they are saying the increased overhead costs are too much and they say their businesses as a result are suffering massively."

Tom Ponton, owner of Oz Bar in Edinburgh's Grassmarket, said: "We looked at the table order apps but they were just too expensive as they have a monthly charge, a charge for every transaction and a charge to use their cash machine."

A Just Eat spokeswoman said: "Just Eat is only successful if our restaurant partners are successful and we believe our commission rates are aligned with the value we provide to our partners.

"Through our 30 day Covid-19 emergency support package, we gave over £11m worth of support to the many thousands of independent restaurants we work with across the UK."

Uber Eat was contacted for comment.