University cafés fined for violating city pricing code

By Aviva Rosman

The University is taking steps to comply with new city ordinances after being fined nearly $5,000 for failing to use price tags in three Plum Caf_s on campus.

In accordance with rules implemented last year by the Chicago Department of Consumer Services (CDCS), stores are required to use either an Alternative Pricing System (APS)—an electronic barcode scanner—or to individually mark each piece of merchandise. According to Section 4-276.510 of the city code, “It shall be unlawful for any person to display for sale any consumer commodity unless the selling price is accurately stated in a clear and conspicuous manner.”

After receiving a citation that could have resulted in a fine as high as $19,000, the University agreed to a court settlement of $4,900 in addition to $75 in court costs.

The new rule, said Rosemary Krimbel, general counsel and deputy commissioner for the CDCS, is intended to ensure fairness in pricing and eliminate discrimination based on factors such as race.

“Most of our rules are very consumer friendly,” Krimbel said. “There will be cases where an African-American inspector will go in after another white inspector and they will get charged different prices. So we insist food get labeled clearly with a price so that you can be sure. That’s the theory behind it.”

Throughout the city, investigators have been conducting inspections to make sure that their pricing is in compliance with the CDCS regulations, Krimbel said.

The University violated price “marking and display” rules, she said. Under the new rules, labels need to be on shelves where the product is displayed. The caf_s, however, had prices listed together on a board.

Starting Wednesday, the caf_s will begin labeling every item for sale with an individual price tag, said Richard Mott (M.B.A ’81), the owner of the caf_s.

“It’s a silly rule, and it’s something that has never been enforced,” Mott said. “Ninety percent of stores don’t do this. It makes sense for a grocery store but not for a little coffee shop.”

Mott said that the Illinois Restaurant Association, of which he is a member, has received many calls from restaurant owners about the new rules and that the association is campaigning to get them changed.

Larry Arbeiter, the University director of Communications, said the administration understands that all city regulations carry the weight of law and that the University is taking all steps to ensure compliance.