Retailers Experimenting With “Just Looking” Fees

Just looking? That’ll cost you.

Two retailers—seemingly in a reaction to showrooming—have experimented with “just looking” fees and similar charges for customers who browse but don’t buy.

A Vera Wang boutique in China recently decided to charge brides-to-be 3,000 yuan ($482) simply to try on its gowns, according to a report in a Chinese newspaper. Faced with an outcry, Vera Wang canceled that fee.

And according to a sign posted on Reddit, an Australian grocery store has also instituted a $5 “just looking” fee, which seems to be applied to everyone who walks in the door.

“As of the first of February, this store will be charging people a $5 fee per person for ‘just looking,’” the sign reads. “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 concludes that this policy is “in line with many other clothing, shoe and electronic stores who are also facing the same issue.”

Needless to say, this sign—which has now appeared on websites throughout the world—did not win many fans among the people who post on Reddit.

“If I wanted something, whether it be book, game, movie, clothes, whatever, but I had to PAY just to look to see if they had it (or something else I wanted) … I wouldn’t even bother and go somewhere else,” one wrote. “Every business should be desperate to get as many people in the store as they can fit. That’s how you make money!” 

Last week, JCK asked the opinion of retailers on how they deal with customers who are obviously showrooming. 

UPDATE: The Australian store owner explains her actions.

JCK News Director