Q: A dry cleaners has the following price arrangement: $1 per shirt if prepaid; $1.50 if paid at pickup. Is there a violation of ribbis in this arrangement?
A: There is no violation of ribbis, and the customer can choose either option. This is because, in principle, payment for labor is due at the end. Therefore, the price of $1.50 is considered the “regular price” and not additional charge for delayed payment. (Y.D. 176:6)Moreover, even if the salary was already agreed upon, the employee can provide a discount for prepayment. For example, someone who needs cash in the middle of the month can offer his employer a discount if he will pay now and not at the end of the month. (See Malveh Hashem 3:6)
Furthermore, similar to rentals, it is permissible to provide a discount for prepayment of wages. This is because it is an equally legitimate option to pay for the services at the beginning of the work. Therefore the discount is viewed simply as accepting a lower wage. (Y.D. 176:8)
However, unlike rentals, it is only permissible to offer a discount if the worker begins immediately and works on a continuous basis. It is not permissible, though, to provide a discount for work that will only begin later, since there is no binding commitment yet. In the case of cleaners, though, when the cleaners take the shirt they become obligated in the job, even if they do not actually begin cleaning it until later. (See Rama C.M. 333:1; The Laws of Ribbis 10:27)
Authored by Rabbi Meir Orlian
These articles are for learning purposes only and cannot be used for final halachic decision. The Business Halacha email is a project of Business Halacha Institute (www.businesshalacha.com) and is under the auspices of Rav Chaim Kohn.