'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."

More on moneyNOW

Mar 26, 2013 3:00PM
she is the business OWNER... let her decide whats best for her business.... succeed or fail its her choice
Mar 26, 2013 3:13PM
Celiac supplies is a store that caters to people who are allergic to wheat.  Lots of people would pay $5.00 to talk to the staff that is well-versed in the products and supplies.  It might be like a visit to the doctor or a support group without paying $250.  However, if you're looking for a bottle of carrot juice, it would be offensive.  Lighten up, people.  This article is trying to pretend that the store that is doing this is a grocery store.  It isn't.  The staff has to be well trained and knowledgeable, not a bunch of college students that throw things in your paper bag.
Mar 26, 2013 3:22PM
i guess most of you  have never heard of sams club or costco
Mar 26, 2013 3:25PM
Great idea.  I'd have marketed it differently.  I wouldn't have called it a browsing fee, because that's not really what is costing the money.  The act is costing the store owner money because she must pay to staff experts to give customers 'free' consultations / opinions (depending on the type of store).  If the real issue is that people come in, ask a bunch of questions about various products and how 'good they are' at fixing whatever (or how does the dress fit/look on me in the case of Ms Wang), then charge customers for THAT service.  If they can't get it at the big box store (or online) then that's something that adds value to YOUR STORE offering a product/service.  If they buy, refund the consultation charges at the check out.

Smart move to combat the internet/big box places with ZERO experts on staff.

Mar 26, 2013 3:38PM
She calls customers "rat bags"????  I certainly won't be doing any browsing or shopping there...
Mar 26, 2013 2:18PM
 goes to a grocery store just to look around
Mar 26, 2013 3:36PM
Both sides are rat bags.  I've wasted a lot of time and energy travelling to bricks and mortar establishments only to be told by the salesperson (if I can find one) that they don't have what I'm looking for but "maybe you can find it online."  I had a list of 10 things that I needed for my project and left the big box hardware store with only two things.  If I had stayed in my pajamas and ordered all of those things online, the shipping would have cost less than the gas I wasted going to the store, and I would have actually gotten what I needed.  
On the other hand, these stores have to pay for the lights and the insurance and the cleaning lady, etc., so I understand why showroomers are pesky.  Here's a great idea.  Offer to match the internet price, but match the shipping price, too, and make a few bucks.  Post the store's price on the shelf and put Amazon's price (plus shipping) right next to it and save the customer the hassle of pulling out their smartphone.  Then, identify which products are not yet available online and price-target the heck out of it.  Also, look at stuff that nobody would bother ordering online.  If it's a beautiful weekend, jack up the price on picnic supplies.  Who can order charcoal, lighter fluid, and table cloth clips online and get it in time for the picnic?  High prices for small, spontaneous items, matched prices for bigger, premeditated purchases.
Mar 26, 2013 2:40PM
Uh, how are they going to collect it?
Mar 26, 2013 2:50PM
Good luck with that! Soon your store will be empty of customers! MSN please follow up with results.
Mar 26, 2013 3:41PM

Maybe she should consider charging a consulting fee for her information & expertise instead.


Mar 26, 2013 3:25PM

So now instead of having a chance at selling something to them by having that customer come in,,, they'll just now go to the internet and ask Google.


The biggest expense in business is getting someone IN YOUR STORE!    

Mar 26, 2013 3:10PM
This is just crazy! What if u are looking for something specific and they dont have or carry it? So they will charge u b/c THEY dont carry that item? And how are they going to make u pay?? And if u refuse what can they do about it??
Mar 26, 2013 2:23PM
yep that's a total bs fee because maybe someones coming in to see if they have something they want and to be charged $5 just to see if they have it or have it in stock at the time is crazy because if they didn't and didn't want anything else but that then it would discourage them from ever coming again.
Mar 26, 2013 3:34PM
Any store in the US that will attempt this approach, not only lost my business in their brick and mortar store, they've lost it online as well.  People have been window shopping for years, and to assume that someone comes in and then buys online, is such BS.  Do they have solid proof of that?  Many times I walk out of a store emptied handed because I didn't have enough money to purchase what I went in there for.  And yes, sometimes I comparison shop; that's my right.  Maybe if their prices weren't so high people wouldn't be shopping elsewhere.  And with her attitude; she deserves to fail.
Mar 26, 2013 3:16PM
This one will solve itself wen they have no customers at all.
Mar 26, 2013 3:10PM
Suddenly competing stores are going to have more customers
Mar 26, 2013 4:14PM
It is one thing to just browse stores to get an idea about prices, but it is all together different to use store employees to evaluate products so you will know which products to buy somewhere else.  If you are going to buy on-line, research on-line,  Employees are paid to sell "In Store" merchandise, not to help their competitors and don't complain when something you buy on line doesn't work properly.
Mar 26, 2013 2:37PM
Every body wants a piece of your pie, not just the Goverment.
It's done more often than we think.  It's called "store scoping".
Mar 26, 2013 3:15PM
will he/she have to pay taxes on that income
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