A McDonald’s franchisee is offering refunds after mistakenly charging customers the Cook County soda tax over the weekend, despite a judge’s order placing the new penny-per-ounce surcharge on hold.
Nick Karavites, who owns and operates 22 Chicago-area McDonald’s restaurants, acknowledged the error Monday, issuing a statement through a corporate spokeswoman at the Oak Brook-based hamburger chain.
“This technical issue has been resolved at my restaurants,” Karavites said. “I am happy to provide a refund to affected customers who provide a receipt.”
Karavites and McDonald’s did not disclose how many restaurants charged the tax, how many customers were affected or when the issue was resolved.
Gerald Farinas noticed that the bill for his Saturday morning breakfast at the Karavites-owned McDonald’s on North Broadway in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood included a separate line item for a beverage surcharge, adding 23 cents to his $3 meal.
Farinas complained, to no avail, and left for his job as assistant director of an Evanston retirement home. When the same surcharge showed up on his Sunday morning bill, he pressed his case with management and got his 23-cent refund.
“I wouldn’t have gotten that refund if I didn’t ask for it,” Farinas said. “I’m sure a lot of people did not see that surcharge on their receipts.”
The soda tax was set to go into effect July 1. On Friday, a Cook County judge issued a temporary restraining order after the Illinois Retail Merchants Association filed a lawsuit against the Cook County Department of Revenue.
Rob Karr, merchants association president, said the McDonald’s snafu reflects broad confusion over the tax.
“This is exactly what we we’re concerned about,” Karr said. “The county has not properly communicated with retailers throughout this entire process.”
Meanwhile, Cook County is passing the buck back to retailers.
“Once the judge issued his restraining order, we have no control over what is taking place between these businesses and their customers,” spokesman Frank Shuftan said in a statement.
For Farinas, making a fuss over the soda tax was more about the principle than the 23 cents.
“It’s the Fourth of July and I’m protesting a tax,” Farinas said. “Nothing more American than that.”