Casual dining establishment TGI Fridays, you may have heard, is advertising what it bills as “endless” appetizers for a mere $10. Yet if you dine at Fridays here in the District of Columbia, you can expect to spend $11, not $10, on the “endless apps,” once DC’s 10 percent dining tax is included. (Nor are the medical bills incurred from eating endless TGI Fridays appetizers included in the $10 figure.) The extra $1 on the tab, I would imagine, come to the surprise of precisely zero diners. People have long grown accustomed to adding taxes to advertised prices.
Likewise, when the local electronics store—assuming it still exists—advertises the low, low prices on its laptops, people are well aware that they’ll end up paying more after taxes are tacked on. “$699!” the ad may blare, but people know that they’ll likely end up spending in the $750 range for that Dell Inspiron (unless they’re lucky enough to live in Oregon, Montana, or another state without a sales tax, that is).
Yet the government apparently feels that when it comes to buying airplane tickets, the American public is simply too stupid to understand that advertised base fares will invariably have taxes added to them. In 2012, President Obama’s Department of Transportation imposed a rule, as Bloomberg explains, requiring “that the airlines advertise fares inclusive of the base fare, taxes and fees.” It appears no other industry in the country—save gasoline—is saddled with this regulation.
It’s plainly unfair for the airline industry to be uniquely targeted in this fashion. Luckily, it appears that the House of Representatives agrees. Earlier this week, on a voice vote, the House passed the Transparent Airfares Act, which repeals the 2012 DOT rule and instead requires that airlines disclose taxes and fees through an “easily accessible” link or popup.
That’s a fair compromise. Another option, which would probably appeal more to Democrats than Republicans, would be to require that advertised prices across all industries include taxes. That would at least remove the glaring unfairness towards the airlines.
Or, if the DOT is so sincerely concerned about price transparency, it could lead a movement to remove the taxes on flying altogether. That way, a $250 ticket would actually cost $250. Problem solved!