'Just looking' will cost $5 in this store

Sick of losing out to customers who research prices and then buy online, one retailer takes a drastic measure.

By Aimee Picchi Mar 26, 2013 1:19PM

Image: Grocery shopping (© Noel Hendrickson/Getty Images/Getty Images)"Showrooming" is a serious problem for retailers who pay to staff their stores with salespeople who can answer customers' questions. But when customers only stop in to check out prices and then opt to shop online for a better deal, it hurts the stores' bottom lines.


Now one retailer in Australia is taking an unusual step to combat the practice. It's charging $5 per person for simply browsing in its aisles, reports Adelaide Now.


The specialty grocery market, called Celiac Supplies, garnered both support and outrage after a Reddit user reported on the approach. 


"This store will be charging people a $5 fee per person for 'just looking,'" according to a sign posted at the suburban Brisbane store. About 60 people a week would stop in to pepper the owner with questions and then buy the same products online or at a bigger supermarket chain, according to Adelaide Now. 


"I've had a gut full of working and not getting paid,'' said the owner, who identified herself only as Georgina. "I can tell straight away who are the rat bags who are going to come in here and pick my brain and disappear."


Many said the approach was misguided, with the executive director of the Australian Retailers Association telling the news service that the $5 fee would likely keep customers away. 


But at least one other retailer is charging for "just looking." Dress designer Vera Wang is asking Chinese brides to pay nearly $500 to try on her designer wedding dresses at a new Shanghai showroom, reports UPI.com. The fee is supposedly aimed at protecting the designer's trademarks and designs. 


Best Buy (BBY) has taken a different approach to the problem. Last month, it said it was enacting a permanent solution by providing a price match for all local retailers and 19 online competitors, including Amazon.com (AMZN). The big-box consumer technology retailer is the top victim of the behavior, according to a December poll from market research firm Harris Interactive.


The Australian store said it would deduct the $5 fee when "goods are purchased." But that didn't garner it much sympathy on Reddit.


"The only time you'll be at the register is if you are buying something, and you aren't 'just looking' if you are buying something," one Reddit user wrote. "Either way, if you try to charge me an extra fee for being in the store then I just won't come in the store."


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