Australian Store Combats Showrooming with $5 ‘Just Looking’ Fee

A store in Australia promised to charge would-be customers if they come in to browse but don’t buy anything.

Customers of the gluten free produce store are charged $5 if they don’t buy anything. Photo: Damn Oatesy/Imgur

A poster which informs potential customers that they’ll be charged $5 for just ‘looking’ if they don’t purchase anything has been put up at Celiac Supplies in the Brisbane suburb of Coorparoo.

The sign claims: “As of the first of February, this store will be charging people a $5 fee per person for “just looking.” The $5 fee will be deducted when goods are purchased.

“Why has this come about? There has been high volume of people who use this store as a reference and then purchase goods elsewhere. These people are unaware our prices are almost the same as the other stores plus we have products simply not available anywhere else,” the sign reads.

“This policy is line with many other clothing, shoe and electronic stores who are also facing the same issue.”

According to The Australian, owner of the store, Georgina, said that she hung up the sign after spending hours each week giving pieces of advice to people who leave without buying anything.

About 60 people a week enter the store, ask questions and recommendations and then buy the same or similar product at a supermarket chain or online.

“I’ve had a gut full of working and not getting paid,” Georgina, who didn’t want her surname published, told the local media. “I’m not here to dispense a charity service for Coles and Woolworths to make more money.”

The woman also revealed that she has became frustrated as prices in her store often match that of the supermarkets but people still go elsewhere as they are convinced that it will be cheaper.

Georgia says that due to the sign she has already lost some customers while others are more sympathetic and pay up: “I can tell straight away who are the rat bags who are going to come in here and pick my brain and disappear.”

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman predicts that  charging customers to browse will turn people away. A few stores in the area are charging to try on clothing but this is the first time he’s heard of a browsing charge.

Mr Zimmerman went on, adding that in order to be competitive, smaller stores “should emphasise what they offer that other stores don’t and focus on providing great customer service.”

“If I walked into the store and was told I was going to be charged to browse my immediate reaction would be to leave,” he said. “You are missing the opportunity for the browsing customer to actually buy from you.”

Daily Finance’s Matt Brownell calls this policy, “the most misguided strategy we’ve seen for dealing with showrooming… 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.”

Consumerist blog agrees: “If customers aren’t buying, the seller needs to figure out why and adapt accordingly. If this store’s prices are truly the best, then maybe it should be offering a price-match guarantee. If it truly offers products that aren’t available elsewhere, then how are these showrooming shoppers buying these items from someone else?”

“Perhaps people are just curious and want to see the prices and have no intention of buying anything anywhere? Think of how many times you’ve looked at Amazon just out of curiosity. Window-shoppers are part of the retail equation; it’s up to the retailer to either ignore them or turn them from looky-loos into bona fide buyers.”

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