NewsPasco County


Tax collector sends out warning after customers surprised by mystery fee

Customers surprised by mystery fee on receipts
Posted at 5:25 PM, Sep 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-06 17:40:07-04

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. -- A mystery user fee has customers in Pasco County questioning where their money is going.

The county tax collector is putting out a warning on what could unknowingly end up on your receipt.

Families shopping at the Sierra Center Boulevard strip are paying for more than just craft supplies if they shop at Hobby Lobby.

“$73.03 and 34 cents of that was a user fee. I’m not sure what a user fee is," said customer Debbie Hatcher while reading out her receipt.

“No, this is the first time we ever heard of it," said customer Ed Latif when asked about the user fee on his receipt.

These customers receipts all showed a 0.5 percent user free. Problem is, no one can make sense of what it is or where it’s going to.

“I think it’s a bunch of crap," said customer Donna Duncheon, "They should at least tell you about it or have signs up or something.”

This user fee is a stranger to even Mike Fasano, the county’s own tax collector.

"People should not be taken advantage of," said Fasano, "It is outrageous that this would be done without telling the customer. This is being done underhandedly and in my opinion unethically."

Fasano says he was told it had to do with the plaza’s owner and the lease. A move, he says, is legal. It’s the same story a Hobby Lobby manager told us ABC Action News off-camera. But we checked with every store on the strip owned by the same developer and found Hobby Lobby was the only one charging this user fee. Fasano warns that fee is also on top of the state and county tax. He calls it a 'tax on the tax.'

Despite it being pennies on the dollar, the customers we spoke with say they won’t return.

“I spent $200 and they took a dollar of it. It’s still my dollar," said Duncheon.

Fasano says despite the reason for the fee, Hobby Lobby should be transparent with its customers.

"Be honest with the customer. Tell them they are going to be charged a service fee. Give that customer the opportunity to say 'No, I don't want to shop here.' Don't wait until they get their receipt and realize at that time that they paid more than what they thought they would have to pay." he said.

Hobby Lobby responded to our inquiries via email and stated:

"The developer of the shopping center requires all tenants, including Hobby Lobby, to assess the user fee pursuant to an agreement between the developer and government officials. All inquiries should be directed to the developer’s representative" - Melissa Barnett, Customer Service Manager for Hobby Lobby

ABC Action News asked Hobby Lobby why it is then that none of the other stores on the same strip are applying this user free. We also reached out to the developer and at this time have not heard back.