Would You Pay $5 to Browse?

Saw this story on Business Insider about a specialty food store in Brisbane, Australia, and thought it worth sharing.

The fee exists to stop people from “showrooming” — which occurs when a customer looks at items in a physical store, then makes the purchase online.

The sign assures that you’ll have the five dollars deducted from the final purchase price, so you’ll get your money back if you buy something.

Well that’s one to do it, I suppose.

Let’s think about this from the storekeeper’s side.  There is a cost associated with maintaining a storefront and paying the employees.  In this setup, the only ones paying a surcharge are those who don’t buy anything.  Of course, that also means you have to make up your mind in one trip, I imagine.  And woe upon those who need to go back to the car for something, I guess.  No word on if there is a bouncer at the door checking IDs.

When we talk about culture change and incentives, we have to think about unintended consequences.  Where might this action lead?  Less traffic, the ire of people around the world (who aren’t likely to shop there, honestly), and the loss of goodwill from consumers.

But what else might happen?  Loads of people talking about your store online?  Check.  Reduced traffic, letting the shopkeeper focus on the real customers so as to give them exceptional service and attention?  Yup.  The establishment of a personal relationship, which is likely to grant “friend of the store” status at some point so the regulars don’t pay the surcharge and are made to feel extra-special?  Indeed.

Yes, it’s an untraditional approach.  That doesn’t make it wrong.  Let’s be honest, those most offended by this are the least likely to buy something in the store to begin with.  So the question that must be asked is whether the cost of alienating those shoppers is greater than the value of better service to the “real” customers walking through the door.  And apparently the answer here is no.

Just because people don’t like the approach doesn’t make it wrong.  If anything, it makes it brave.  And that, on some level, should be commended.

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