In Manhattan, where three out of four households do not have cars, higher fuel prices are hitting New Yorkers where it hurts: in delivery charges for dry cleaning, groceries, even flowers.
FreshDirect, an online grocer that brings meats, vegetables and dairy products to apartments in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, now collects a 97-cent surcharge. Peter's Flowers on Broadway near 38th Street raised its minimum delivery charge to $15, from $12.50. The Midnight Express dry-cleaning service added a 10 percent delivery charge.
Although the record-high fuel prices that followed Hurricane Katrina have receded, gasoline still sells for about 11 percent more than a year earlier. Energy costs are spilling over into consumer prices as the strong economy makes it easier for businesses to pass the expense onto customers.
"Demand stays strong, and they can get away with it," said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at Global Insight, a research firm in Lexington, Mass. "People say, 'Oh, well, I don't mind paying a little extra.' "
The cost of trucking and transportation services rose 6.9 percent in October from a year earlier, while the prices of finished goods excluding energy products rose 1.5 percent, said Martin Kohli, an economist with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in New York.
Atlanta-based United Parcel Service Inc., FedEx Corp. of Memphis and DHL Express, a unit of Germany's Deutsche Post AG, pass on higher fuel costs through surcharges. The surcharges are adjusted monthly, based on average diesel or jet fuel prices reported by the Department of Energy.
This has made it more expensive for many businesses in New York and elsewhere to get their goods delivered, pushing up the price of products including milk, apple juice, fruits and vegetables.
"Some of our price collectors have picked up reports that department stores were having larger delivery fees for delivering furniture and other things," Kohli said.
"Fruit is usually up this time of year, but vegetables are also up, cereals are up, milk is up," said Paula Warner, 50, of the Upper East Side. "Everything."
Businesses are often forced to choose between keeping customers happy and the bottom line.
"There's nothing we can do," said Jerry Glick, sales manager of Queens-based Midnight Express. "I think everybody understands the pinch and realizes that we're not making this up, nor can we absorb everything."
The surcharges have stuck even as fuel costs dropped from their highs. "They've come down, but nobody lowers their prices," said Jon Racanello, president of Peter's Flowers. "I still get fuel surcharges; as soon as they get rid of theirs, I'll get rid of mine."
FreshDirect, which charges $4.95 to deliver orders of at least $40 in Manhattan, levies an extra fee that is tied to the price of crude oil and adjusted monthly.
"The fuel surcharge helps cover not merely the increased cost of making deliveries to our customers, but also broad increases in commodity and utility prices that directly affect running -- and refrigerating -- our facility," the company says on its Web site.
FreshDirect says it will eliminate the fee should the price of crude oil drop below $35 a barrel.
Higher fuel prices also have translated into increased costs for commuters, although the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission on Nov. 17 rejected a request by taxi drivers for a surcharge to cover higher fuel costs.
New Jersey Transit, which links Manhattan with towns including Montclair, New Brunswick and Short Hills, increased the price of train, bus and subway tickets by an average of 9.9 percent earlier this year to compensate for higher fuel costs.
Orthopedic surgeon Lon Weiner, who takes the 6 a.m. SeaStreak ferry from Highlands, N.J. , to Manhattan, pays an extra $1 a trip. The ferry service, a unit of Bermuda-based Sea Containers Ltd., added a fuel surcharge of $40 for a book of 40 tickets on Nov. 1, raising Weiner's monthly expense to $623.
"That's a lot of co-pays," he said.
Jason Bram, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said it could be worse. Fewer cars mean New Yorkers are not feeling the same pinch as people who live and work in cities in which residents need to drive. Because New York is near a major seaport in New Jersey, surcharges are not as high.
"If you have to pay a dollar more for this or a dollar more for this," Bram said, "it's much less noticeable for the average New Yorker."