Store Charges Browsing Customers $5 'Just Looking' Fee

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http://imgur.com/jh38qXT?tags
BarrettFox, Reddit.com
A store in Australia is apparently taking an extreme approach to eliminating showrooming, alerting would-be customers that they'll be charged $5 if they come in to browse but don't buy anything.

Reddit user BarrettFox posted a snapshot of a sign warning shoppers that the store would impose a $5 fee for people who are "just looking." The fee, the sign explains, will be deducted from the final purchase price, ensuring that people who actually buy something won't be charged. It notes that it's pursuing this strategy because of "a high volume of people who use this store as a reference and then purchase goods elsewhere."

The user identified the store as a specialty food retailer based in Brisbane, Australia; we've reached out to the store to confirm that they posted the sign, but because it's currently the middle of the night in Australia, we haven't heard back yet.

But if this store is actually charging people just for walking in the door, it has to be the most misguided strategy we've seen for dealing with showrooming. While it's undoubtedly frustrating to have people use your store as a showroom just so they can buy the same goods online, imposing a cover charge is hardly the ideal solution. The goal of any retailer should be to impress customers with competitive pricing and great customer service -- not treat their customers with suspicion and hostility from the moment they walk in the door.

That approach won't just keep the showroomers away, either -- it's inevitably going to turn off a lot of potential customers who had no intention of showrooming, but aren't about to step into a store that forces them to pay an entrance fee if they don't find anything they like.

It's not the first time we've seen a store take this approach. A couple of years ago, a shoe store got fed up with people who tried on their shoes and then bought them online, and decided to impose a $20 "fitting fee." In both cases, we're struggling to understand how the store would even enforce such a charge; if we hear back on how it's going, we'll let you know.

But in the meantime, this store and other retailers considering a similar scheme might instead want to explore a more consumer-friendly approach. Target and Best Buy were likewise stung by shoppers who came in, tried out their products and then went home to buy on Amazon. But instead of banning phones or trying to charge an entrance fee, they instead extended their price-matching policy to Amazon and other online retailers.

Obviously doing so might cut into those retailers' profit margins, and that will also be true for this small business owner. But if, as the sign claims, the store's prices "are almost the same as the other stores," it shouldn't be much of a problem.

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.


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