Store Charges $5 for Browsing

Screen shot 2013-04-01 at 6.08.56 PMIt must be frustrating.

Imagine managing a store, waiting on customers as they examine the merchandise, answering their questions… and then waving goodbye as they leave your brick and mortar business to head home and order the very same merchandise online from someone else.

This is happening more and more. Stores like Best Buy are suffering. I admit to being guilty of this practice, myself. There is even a name for this behavior. It’s called “showrooming”

Now a store owner in Australia is fighting back.

The following sign is on the front of this speciality food store:

photo credit: BarrettFox Reddit

photo credit: BarrettFox Reddit

So, in order to browse in this store, you must pay $5. If you buy nothing, you have spent $5 for the privilege. If you make a purchase, you’ll get your $5 deducted at the register.

While I understand the pain of the merchants, I must admit that I would not shop in a store that follows this policy. Would you?

Screen shot 2013-03-06 at 7.27.02 PM

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30 thoughts on “Store Charges $5 for Browsing

  1. I would. Because, I don’t showroom. If I go somewhere to buy something, I buy it. And, if I’m buying online, which I do a lot, I just buy it. It’s unfair to do otherwise just to save a few dollars. So, I would have no problem spending $5 to look at a specialty shop that is probably local and probably having serious money issues. Without measures like these, or something else, stores like this won’t exist for much longer.

  2. Oh, and just so everyone knows. I am in the lower class when it comes to money. I live on a disability paycheck. I’m not saying what I said because I have a lot of money and can spare it. I’m saying it because I really with all my heart believe it.

    • It is very difficult these days for the small store owner to survive, that is for sure. Fortunately there are many people who try to support the small stores, but sometimes that is just not enough.

  3. I understand why they do it, I would ask them if it would be a one off payment or if I would have to pay every time.
    If I was after a specific book, I think I would just ask them.

    • You make a good point, Alastair. I wonder if you are a ‘regular’ if you would have to pay each time you stop in but don’t buy? I don’t think this is going to be helpful for them….

      • I don’t. When I went to Hastings a couple of years ago, there was a sign on a shop that said “If you are not going to to buy, do not enter” I was looking for books of a particular genre, but I didn’t go in there in case it didn’t have what I wanted. I wonder if they are still there

  4. I’d definitely not go into the store but I do feel terribly sorry for the owners that are having such a high volume of people doing this that they feel it necessary. I’d never have thought it. Maybe online shopping hasn’t become as big, here in South Africa.

    • As I mentioned in my post, I have done this very thing. I made a television purchase from Amazon, but first I went into Best Buy to examine the television in person. IF they were willing to ‘match’ the price, I would have bought it from them, but the difference was hundreds of dollars. It really wasn’t a choice. And of course Best Buy is not a small store like the one featured in this blog post. I just think there must be other ways to encourage customers rather than this punitive one. I found your point especially interesting…. for a small store, their volume of showroomers is that high to force them to make such a stance? Surprising!

  5. No. I would not shop there. I am not guilty of showrooming very often, personally, because I can do that from home. I’m too lazy to go out to a store and walk around to look at merchandise I intend to buy online. I do that from my computer chair quite satisfactorily. However, I DO often look things over in a store that I plan to buy THERE and then think about them a bit longer before going back and making my purchase. I would not pay a browsing fee for any reason I can think of. There has to be a better way for stores to deal with this problem.

    • Plus, just think of all the walk-by traffic your store would lose in a mall, for instance. People who wander in as they are window shopping and make an impulse buy. How many of those people do you think would come inside if they thought they had to spend $5 for the privilege? I don’t think it makes sound business sense, myself, even though I can understand the problem. But this would really just serve to alienate a lot of potential customers, in my opinion.

      • You make a GREAT point, Marcia! When I shop in a mall, or in our local downtown, I will wander in and out of stores with no ‘plan’ to buy, yet I always come home with a bag of stuff … pure impulse buying. This policy eliminates those potential customers, for sure!

        • Absolutely. Who can afford to drop $5 in every store they want to browse? Browsing is part of the Art of Buying! And even if I could afford the $5 per store, I woudn’t pay it. That would just drive me home to do ALL of my shopping via the internet. Silly, business killing idea! Browsers have always been part of doing business and if you get rid of them, you probably get rid of 95% of your customer base. Seems stupid to me.

  6. To me there’s a great difference in browsing and the term “showrooming” — a term I’d never heard of until now. Browsing is going into a place, possibly some place you’ve never been before, to see what they have, what you might like to buy now or in the future if you have to save up for it. If showrooming is all about comparison shopping with the bottom line meaning you’re not going to buy it in that store . . . well, I think it’s kind of sneaky. I’m disabled and homebound. I must do my shopping on the internet. (I have a friend who gets my groceries for me.) Most stores that I used to shop in when I was able to are also online, which I greatly appreciate. The things my friend can’t find for me in the grocery store, I order from that particular store online. The places I’d never ask her to go b/c she’s way too busy w/her family & job and/or b/c we don’t have a store locally, I visit via the internet. I always check out customer reviews first, if it’s a place I’ve never been to before or even if it’s an item I’ve never tried before. That’s one reason I’m a fan of Amazon. I also check out the return policy.

    If I was able to get out and go shopping, I would never enter a store with that sign on the door. I understand why a small, family-owned business would do it, but a large chain store marks their prices up enough to cover this b/c there’s always been browsers — looky-loos — as long as stores have existed. That’s why the smart individual came up with the impulse-buy idea to begin with: put items by the register small enough for people to see many different types of items and close enough to grab and buy on impulse. I’d be afraid to try a new store — or even an old one — if I saw that sign. Most of the time when I did shop, I knew what I wanted, would go into the store, buy it and leave. However, sometimes I just simply wanted to look with the hope I’d find a new dress for work or something nice to look at, yet also practical, for my home. For some people that is the part of shopping they get pure pleasure in doing: looking and hoping and then finding with delight something they never knew they wanted till they stumbled across it.

    • Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. (I love “looky-loo” !) You are so right … browsing is a pastime that could result in numerous happy outcomes for the store. Perhaps and impulse buy or perhaps, as you mention, finding something wonderful to come back and purchase another day. I agree … I think the sign will make people turn away and not enter the store.

  7. I definitely would not go in. I only commit to buy after I review what they have and see if it is what I want. I rarely if ever look at one store and then buy online unless it is out of stock. And then I buy at the same store’s web site. I understand this is a problem for small stores, but I can’t afford to spend $5 just to go in a store.

    • Can you imagine walking down a street and having to pay $5 every time you wanted to walk in a store? That would be ridiculous … and impossible. $5 is a good amount of money to hand over for no reason.

  8. No I would not shop there. I go into a store sometimes to see if there is anything of interest to me. If I find nothing, or if I can’t fit myself into something that wasn’t meant for me to fit into anyway, I leave. You don’t always marry the first person you date. You don’t always buy from every store you walk into. Just sayin’.

  9. We do pay to go to a home show to browse, and they don’t deduct the fee when we leave with merchandise, either, so I think if people get used to it, and everyone is doing it, no one would scream. We all scream when things change for the worse at first, then we get used to it. When I shop for clothes, I like the service. When I shop for computers, etc I do go to a store because I like a real person helping me with the questions. When I buy programs and smaller items, I shop online. V does a lot more large purchasing than I do online. But I wouldn’t mind paying $5.00 to browse. I wouldn’t want to pay $5.00 to walk through the store to get to another part of the mall!

    • I just don’t think this would work. I think of the Main street in my town. When I walk it, I wander in and out of the stores, there. I usually buy something, somewhere, that day, but certainly not in every store that I walk into. If I had to pay $5 for the privilege of walking in each store, well, I simply wouldn’t. And so, whichever store would have gotten my impulse purchase… won’t.

      • I guarantee you, *I* would scream. And some changes that occur do not promote acceptance in me, but rather cause me to change my habits, permanently. This would be one of them. Instead of encouraging me to spend more at local stores, it would merely convince me to do most, if not all, of my shopping online. If I can’t walk in and look over a store’s mechandise without obligation, then I’m not going in that store. How would I know beforehand if they had a single thing I wanted? I understand bricks and mortar stores have a problem, but punishing consumers isn’t the way to fix it. Enticing them would work much better. More flies with honey than vinegar, and all that.

        And to me, when you pay an entrance fee to go to a Home Show, it is because you are paying for the event. Just my opinion, of course, but I don’t see that as the same thing at all.

      • I agree to that – especially small stores where you’re just killing time waiting for someone to go to lunch with you. We have tons of restaurants downtown. It might work in a big box store like Walmart where you only go there if you have a reason to go!

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