Paying The Planet’s Price

I like Planet Pizza. Their slices are tasty and big. Service is fast and friendly. They support local organizations whenever they’re asked.

But — like a number of “06880” readers, who have emailed me about this — I’m calling BS on the chain’s recent policy shift.

According to notices and flyers, Planet Pizza now offers a “discount” to customers who pay by cash, rather than credit card.

The other day, I ordered a slice. The price was the usual: $4.25. I asked for my cash discount.

No, they said. The sign just meant I’d have to pay more if I used a credit card.

If the price is the same as before, it’s not a cash discount — despite what the sign says, in 3 places. It’s a credit card surcharge.

Offering a surcharge is illegal in Connecticut. A cash discount is fine. (Click here for the legalese.)

But a discount is “an amount or percentage deducted from the normal selling price of something.”

So if the price has not changed — and Planet Pizza’s pies, calzones and everything else are still listed as the same price as before — they’re not offering a discount.

They’re adding a surcharge.

I’ll keep ordering slices there. I’ll continue to pay cash.

But I won’t kid myself that I’m getting a “discount.”

38 responses to “Paying The Planet’s Price

  1. Annelise Fratella-Lentz

    Who cares !?!!? Omg

    Sent from my iPhone. Please excuse any grammatical error.


  2. Tom Knowles

    What most of the public does not grasp is that the fees to use all these ‘affinity’ cards and ‘cash back’ cards are growing, (as you may have noticed from amount of money the spend on TV ads) and its not VISA or MasterCard or your bank that pays–its the merchant!!

    As a small merchant I receive a 3-4 page summary of all the fees I have to pay every month. What was 2.5% jumped to 3% then 3.5% and now is 3.75% of all my credit/debit sales. It eats into you bottom line quickly. So whether its a discount or a surcharge–I don’t blame Planet Pizza.

    Tom K.

  3. Mark Samuels

    Actually, it clearly states that everything is priced at a cash discount. That means that their prices are actually higher but you get the “ cash discount” price if you pay cash. So, even though the prices seem the same, they actually raised their prices but they don’t have to reprint the price lists because they’re now quoting the discounted price. Seems fair to me.

  4. Bart Shuldman

    The result is raising hourly wages to $15 an hour. Restaurants have 2 major costs-food and labor. When you raise one of them, then the price will go up. Credit card fees are 1-3%. Offering to charge the customer for these fees is one way to lower the restaurant costs.

    Get ready. You will see this more and more. Restaurants will try and hold off tasing the food costs but charges will be pushed to the consumer. Then eventually the costs will rise as the $15/hr becomes a reality.

    Did you think raising labor costs would do nothing?

    Bart Shuldman

    • Peter Saverine

      Maybe restaurants should raise prices to pay fair wages and adopt a more European model of tipping for good service only. Right now we are guilted to leaving a tip to compensate the underpaid workers
      Either way we pay. Other industries don’t rely on customers to directly pay their workers through tips
      Seems strange we still allow restaurants, hair and nail salons, taxis etc. to be dependent on tips so their employees can live.
      Time to change the norm and consider new business models

      • Bart Shuldman

        Huh? First, the ‘pizza place’ usually does not get tips. So not sure your argument.

        If you want to talk about the people that serve at casual and fine dining establishments, they make less per hour but get tips for their service. For someone like me that travels the world, the American way seems to work better. Do good service and get a nice tip. Don’t and get a lousy tip.

        Not in Europe. But that is my opinion. Service in Europe is ok but not great.

        The European model seems to be the typical answer by many.

        Bart Shuldman

    • Credit card fees are 3.5 to 3.75!

    • Richard Fogel

      take a look at Costco stock performance over the last 18 months. When workers are fairly compensated companies can thrive. Trader Joes is no slouch either. How are people supposed to live on $8 an hour. Work i n MCDonalds for a week. See how it feels standing on your feet all day long following detailed instructions over and over and over. That is a skill.

      • Bart Shuldman

        Minimum wage or living wage? Since when did minimum wage become living wage? Man it has to stop. There are tru entry jobs that give teenagers a place to work.

        Just watch what happens. Kiosks will eliminate the work. Make it more expensive and businesses will find a way to adjust. And who loses? The exact people you are trying to protect. Just watch what happens.

        Too bad. Many young people in need of a start will find it more difficult. It will now happen.

        Better get educated and into the tech industry.

        Bart Shuldman

  5. Peter Saverine

    I’ve always felt businesses were shortsighted when they didn’t take credit cards or discriminate against certain cards like Amex because of a percentage.
    It alienates the best customers who statistically spend more. Same for the stores that make you sign up for loyalty cards to get their posted price
    How novel would it be to just offer your best FAIR price to all—set your price to allow yourself to make money—but avoid the low price bait and switch model. Same for gas stations, grocery stores, etc.
    The cash only registers always seem a little suspect
    I wonder who’s counting it at days end.i would also hasten to guess that the end of day cash shortage s probably exceed the credit card fee savings.
    Best business model-listen to customer and eliminate hurdles to the sale—no matter how small

    As to planet pizza
    Thanks for heads up
    As a regular i will sure to challenge

  6. Mark L Yurkiw

    We end up paying for every Product & Service we get. Pizza is a product, Credit Cards are a service. I understand your point; you are not happy HOW they worded it. However, it’s a battle of “Truth, Justice, & the American Way” to quote the original TV Superman soundbite. I’m sure you noticed CASH & CREDIT prices at gas stations, they just worded it better. The problem I have is HOW all these “services” have less than transparent costs to us all. The “real’ cost is always obfuscated or hidden for as long as possible until the cost becomes so obvious it can no longer be buried. More importantly, the real hidden costs are not always money. Think long & hard about all the services you use, especially social media like Facebook. Frankly, you should decide if YOU use Facebook or do they USE you. The price to you is hidden in their company’s stock value and there is hell to pay.

  7. Want to eliminate the CC surcharge and get a deal?. But a gift $30 certificate to PP online for $15. You can buy several. Valid for 6 months. Catch is you need to go to the Norwalk location to redeem.

    • Joshua Stein


    • Elaine Marino

      Ed: It does not seem to me that the Living Social/Planet Pizza Norwalk gift certificate expires after six months. From what I read, the gift certificate’s “promotional value” expires 181 days after purchase. This means that the gift certificate will only be worth the “paid value” ($15) if you do not use it within six months. According to the website, the gift certificate is valid for five years and the entire value must be used in one visit.

      • Yes, you are correct. The $30 value is good for 6 months, then it reverts back to it’s original $15 cost…virtually forever.

  8. Matt Bannon

    Wages and cost of services increase
    Consumers will adjust where its within their control in the form of less tips to the workers
    Government may insert their will into this equation but the free market will always adjust. Capitalism at work

  9. With all due respect, I think your dismay might be a little bit misplaced here. We are fast becoming a card-dependent culture, leaving out hundreds of thousands of “unbanked” people who don’t have or can’t get bank accounts and credit cards. Whom does it really hurt that at Planet Pizza (serving cheap, fast food that is more widely affordable than, say, Gold’s or Little Kitchen), paying cash allows PP to pass the discount on to their cash-paying customers? Isn’t this kind of a decent thing, actually?

  10. I go to Joe’s Pizza on North Main . To me, the best slice in town.

  11. Wow…….the comments are taking this in numerous directions, but isn’t the real issue here the fact that the Planet Pizza chain Management decided to treat their customer base as if they are complete idiots? They are not raising their prices; instead they are basically claiming that their prices have ALWAYS been structured as if one was paying Cash at all times…..which of course never was the case. For example, the $4.25 that Dan pays for a slice is evidently the same price that it has been for some time now— for Cash, AS WELL AS for Credit. But now, it will be $4.25 ONLY if you pay Cash.
    There is NO DISCOUNT. They could not have worded this approach in a worse manner.
    PP, be honest with your customers. Just say, ” Due to ever-increasing credit card fees assessed to us, we are being forced to increase our prices. Thank you for your understanding and continued patronage.”
    I, for one, would not continue to eat there based on the way they chose to handle this issue.

  12. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    Are merchant fees to credit cards companies applicable to prepaid cards?

    Most debt counselors and financial planners advise consumers to pay in cash. Prepaid debit cards and gift cards fall into that category

    If there’s a common thread to all our financial woes such as bankruptcies, living paycheck to paycheck and the exploding Federal deficit I would have to say that it is called instant gratification.

    As I believe Shakespeare said (when I wasn’t sleeping) “Neither a borrower nor a lender be”

    Having said that, pizza and beer are the staff of life. In Westport the biggest scourge is not McMansions it’s the loss of the Nistico family in the restaurant business. 43 years after moving from Westport I still find it superior to anything else. Oh that bubbled, chewy crust makes everything else a wannabe.

  13. Michael Calise

    I thought a Pizza Slice was 25 cents

  14. Hank Ottinger

    I’m with Mr. Calise. Living in the Midwest, the thought of paying $4.25 for ONE slice is absurd. And yes, we know how to make decent pies out here, though the best slice I ever had was at Phil Baker’s back in the late 50s.

  15. Michael Calise

    AH HA you have hit the nail on the head. The real problem is the cashless industry. An ever-growing layer of cost which the consumer can not control. It is a VAT with no benefit!

  16. Richard Fogel

    they are a very successful Brazilian company. I wonder who works in the kitchen and what they get paid. .

  17. Matthew Bannon

    Dan I know you have done a number of stories on bagel maven. I was there today. Looks closed Any insight??

    Sent from my iPhone


  18. We will get more oily speakese as election time comes. Let’s all just let it roll off out backs but we can vote with our business. Sanctions do have an effect. questioning was good..
    It gave them a chance to think about whether they really wanted to be felonious or not! Go guy!

  19. Susan Schmidt

    Connecticut is one of 10 states (plus Puerto Rico) that does not allow businesses, such as Planet Pizza, to directly pass along credit card or transaction fees to customers. To be sure, there are plenty of local small businesses out there that aren’t paying attention to this detail — or more likely, don’t know that it’s illegal and could potentially result in a considerable fine. I agree that PP’s strategy is clunky but it does spare them from potential litigation.

    There are two ways to look at this — from the view of the consumer and that of the retailer. Consumers want lower prices and less confusion; retailers want to cover their costs, not incur add-on fees and of course make a few dollars in the process. My view is that the state of CT, by holding out on adopting the strategy of the other 40 US state governments to allow aggregate fee pricing, has mandated consumer confusion. There is no clean, transparent or effortless solution on the part of the retailer to work around their legal limitations and consumers end up frustrated (see all comments above) because the cash discount is seemingly arbitrary.

    Nobody wants to pay more, but when a price includes all fees it’s certainly a lot easier to comparison shop. Just remember that buying local is always worth a few extra $$!

    • Ernie Lorimer

      This isn’t so. In all states, for the last 35 years you can have one price for cash and one for credit. (Not necessarily without violating the processing agreements.) In NY and CT, you can post one price as long as it is the credit card price. This is called single stamping, and only an old grocery clerk can tell you why. You can double stamp, showing both prices. That’s what gas stations are doing at the pump, but not necessarily on the big sign. If you single stamp the credit card price, at checkout you can have a cash discount. The one thing you can’t do is single stamp the cash price and then surcharge at checkout for credit. So, do you think the PP sign is double stamping, or single stamping the wrong way? Are you faced at checkout with an unexpected surcharge? At the moment, by 4-3 the NY Court of Appeals says this is the wrong way. The three in the minority were, like, what?

      These laws are a backup in case the processing agreements are a per se restraint of trade. Clever, really, because like the Monte Hall problem, people will usually pay by credit card and forgo the discount; done the other way people will usually pay in cash.

      Because this involves the communication of pricing, not the pricing itself, the “legalese” Dan refers to is about regulation of commercial speech. And because of that, the legal battle over this really isn’t about credit card fees.

  20. Jack Whittle

    I’m still stunned Dan pays $4.25 for a slice of of pizza in Westport – good God that’s expensive. I have never paid nearly that much for a slice; I guess that’s because I get my pizza from Westport Pizzeria, don’t have to pay Pizza-chain prices and the pizza is awesome

  21. Seriously, these places don’t care much about the few percent credit card fees when they’re making 75% margins- cash is infinitely easier to hide from the IRS than the credit card revenue.

  22. Hey Dan, PP has all sorts of ValPak and other mailed and online coupons listing 2 large pies for $24. At 8 slices per pie, that’s about $1.50/slice. Just go in with 10-15 of your 06880 friends and split it up, or show up very hungry.. Just tell everyone to bring cash!

    • Mark L Yurkiw

      If you are looking for a bargain call Primo Pizza Monday thru Thursday for 1/2 price. That’s 6.50 for a LARGE pie…that’s .82 cents a slice! But you need to pick it up yourself, they do deliver for full price that’s 1.60 a slice for a pie.

  23. Patrick Pellico

    There are plenty of other pizzeria’s that are great and don’t charge a surcharge.

  24. There are actually now just 5 states in the US that do NOT allow surcharging of a credit card or passing on the fees to the cardholder: CT, MA, OK, KS, CO. 60% of Australian merchants transfer credit card fees to the merchant. It is legal in Canada with certain restrictions. It is a solution that is fair to the mom and pop merchant who has had to bear the excess fees of paying for their customers miles and reward points. There are pressures being put on the Attorney General’s office in Hartford to change the law in CT. We currently sell the solution in states where it is legal, e.g. Florida, NJ and NY. While cash discounting may be tolerated the merchant must ensure that he is using a POS or terminal system that identifies a Debit card vs a Credit card, which our system does. It is against ALL rules, card brand and legal, to pass the merchant’s fees to the cardholder when they use a Debit card. Fines are hefty if the merchant is reported. For now, we are not offering the services in CT but will be ready to when the law changes.