Multichannel

Brisbane Shopkeeper Charges Customers $5 Just Looking Fee

Retailer charges to browse

A specialty food retailer in Brisbane has begun charging tyrekickers and showroomers a just looking fee, spurred by sales lost to online sellers.

A Brisbane-based bricks and mortar specialty foods retailer is joining an ever-increasing list of retailers to charge consumers for service upon walking into the store.

The story first hit when Reddit user BarrettFox posted an image of a sign announcing the $5 “just looking” fee in the store’s window. The sign also clearly states that the fee is deducted from the final purchasing price – should the consumer end up buying anything.

Store charges $5 for browsing

Brisbane specialty foods store charges $5 “just looking” fee. - Reddit.com

The shop owner, who did not want to be identified (but whose shop has been named elsewhere), welcomed an interview from Power Retail, confirming that she had made the decision to charge browsing customers as a direct result of showrooming.

“I’m a small business owner selling specialty food products, it’s not like it is a simple procedure to take this business online,” the store owner explains. “We have a website and we do sell some products, but most food products don’t take kindly to being left on a customer’s doorstep in the Australian sun.”

Citing increasing competition from much larger retailers, whether they are online or the big supermarkets, the store owner found she was being used more for her excellent knowledge of dietary requirements and alternative foods than she was for her product.

“I’m personally interacting with customers on the shop floor every day,” she says. “I’ve spent up to 2.5 hours advising some customers – many come in having already searched online and only become increasingly confused about what they need. My store is the place they go to unravel the mess. Surely that’s worth at least five dollars for my time and expertise.”

While it seems like an unlikely strategy, it’s not the first time we’ve seen bricks and mortar stores pushing back against the lure of online shopping in this way, with electronics stores, fashion retailers and even ski hire stores all introducing similar restrictions in the past two years.

However, even the no-nonsense attitude of this particular store owner can encompass an acceptance of online as a potentially beneficial channel.

“I don’t have a problem with online sales – I think there’s definitely a place for them,” she says. “But food-based websites in Australia don’t include the kind of detail regarding ingredients that I provide my customers with, because it’s too costly an exercise. Well now, I’m finding it a costly exercise to provide that information free of charge, and it isn’t like the manufacturers have begun paying small retailers to promote their products – a dream situation.”

And if you think charging customers a measly five dollars for potentially life-changing advice is bad, then maybe you won’t want to hear about Vera Wang’s Shanghai outlet, where they’re apparently charging customers $500 just to try a dress on.

Campbell Phillips

Article by

Campbell currently serves as Editor for Power Retail. He has a background in science communication and a long history in retail. Campbell has a keen interest in emerging technologies and their impact in the world of media and online retail. Campbell is an indoor sports junkie, to the point of playing in a local dodgeball competition once a week, “just for kicks”. Follow Campbell on Twitter, Google+ or connect with him on LinkedIn.

8 Comments

    • michael Anderson
    • 27th March

    big deal, it’s an entrance fee. Eagle Farm race course markets on Sundays charge $2 to get in.

    No one turns around & says I’m not paying that to get in.

    Reply
    • michael Anderson
    • 27th March

    Lots of businesses charge for costings or quotes, especially when time consuming to work out. What’s the difference ?

    Reply
    • Hi Michael – thanks for taking the time to read my story.

      I happen to completely agree with your sentiment. If you cast around for other posts on this particular story, you’ll find there is plenty of negative sentiment – particularly coming out of the US.

      It’s not the ‘consumer-centric’ approach that many would advocate in a standard retailing model. But then again, there’s nothing ‘standard’ about this woman’s predicament.

      Reply
    • DD
    • 27th March

    Well done her for charging a just looking fee. She has created an amount of intellectual property and the interested customer gains from that intellectual property, so they show pay for it. I wonder if the number of customers in her shop has changed significantly?

    Reply
    • Eunice Burns
    • 28th March

    She’s in retail – the objective is to close the SALE. I don’t understand why people are applauding her decision. Why would you dissuade potential customers from walking into your store??? Wouldn’t it be wiser to offer a consultation service for a small fee to customers who want more detailed information/advice. What is she doing . . . standing at the entrance asking potential customers their intent on entering the store and charging an admission fee? Her business will close down real soon.

    Reply
  • This is equivalent to charging customers to view your website without first previewing any content.

    Reply
    • bruce
    • 29th March

    I agree with Eunice. If her customers are using her knowledge for a tangible benefit then I do believe that maybe she is approaching this from the wrong standpoint and is missing a very good opportunity to diversify her business into a consultancy as well as product supply.
    If she did this she could probably earn considerably more than the $5 ‘browsing’ fee will return plus not alienate as many of her customers and as a bonus she would position herself as an expert in her field.
    In our business we did something very similar for people who would come in and want appraisals for items. Previously we would just refuse to give the appraisal as we knew in nearly all cases it was for items they wanted to sell themselves (rather than to us) or for insurance. We now do appraisals and are very upfront about charging for our 30 years of knowledge and expertise and advise that we will charge 15% of the valuation as a fee up to a maximum of $100 due to the fact that it can take 15 minutes to an hour or more.
    We have now expanded that side of the business where we will make a visit to the person’s home or wherever the items are. For this we charge a minimum of $100 up to a maximum of $250 depending on the valuation and/or time.

    Reply
    • Michael
    • 1st April

    This woman makes no sense. On one hand she says they have items that are not available anywhere else and on the other says people are buying them online. Then she says she can’t sell her stuff online as it doesn’t travel well…. Then how are her competitors doing it? Sounds like she is trying to find an easy way out instead of evolving her business to meet the times she is trading in.

    Reply

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