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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Gluten-free Specialty Store Charges Five Bucks For Looking

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 05/03/2013 - Would you fork over five dollars just for browsing in a store?

    Photo: CC--plantingdollarsMore and more brick and mortar stores are fighting against a practice called 'showrooming,' where consumers visit a store to view an item in person before buying it online. Charging a fee to visitors who do not buy anything is one new strategy in that fight.



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    Adelaidenow.com.au reports that Brisbane-based Celiac Supplies, a gluten-free specialty food store in Australia, recently announced that it will charge customers $5 for browsing. The money will be refunded when the customers purchase an item.

    In an article that appeared on the Consumerist.com website, the store-owner, who gave her name only as Georgina, says that she implemented the fee to curb “showrooming.” Her store has seen a "high volume of people who use this store as a reference and then purchase goods elsewhere," according to a note, a photo of which appeared on Reddit.com

    Georgina's note adds that the showroomers she complains about "are unaware our prices are almost the same as the other stores plus we have products simply not available anywhere else.”

    The note closes by saying that the $5 fee “is in line with many other clothing, shoe, and electronic stores" that also face the same problem.

    Georgina told the website that she spent hours giving advice to as many as 60 people per week, who would go into the store, ask questions, and then leave without buying anything.

    “I’ve had a gut full of working and not getting paid,” Georgina was quoted as saying. “I’m not here to dispense a charity service for Coles and Woolworths to make more money.”



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    My feelings about this are extremely negative. This woman and other stores that have instituted such a policy should be cleaning toilets for a living. Any customer in their right mind would not cross the threshold. If a retailer appropriately markets their business and daily determines if they are price competitive, they will have a store full of purchasing customers. These retailers have forgotten that they are members of a "service community." I.e., it is their responsibility to "service" their clientele. That is the reason the phrase "customer service" exists.

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    I understand the frustration of the shop owner, but the question left unanswered is why she is not able to compete with other online stores. If she has them in conversation online and fails to make a sale, there is something wrong with her salesmanship. Online customers are sensitive to nuances in presentation, and while they may be grateful for information, they flee from a sour attitude.

     

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    I would never pay a fee to browse in a store. I have celiac disease, but I'm also severely allergic to corn and sulfites. Gluten-free foods are likely to contain one or both of them. I have to read labels to make sure that foods and products don't contain gluten, corn, sulfites or any other of my food allergens. I also have to avoid perfume because it can trigger my allergies and asthma, so I often have to leave a store empty handed for legitimate reasons. There are many other people who have the same problems I do. So, we are not likely to pay a fee for nothing.

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    I would never pay a fee to browse in a store. I have celiac disease, but I'm also severely allergic to corn and sulfites. Gluten-free foods are likely to contain one or both of them. I have to read labels to make sure that foods and products don't contain gluten, corn, sulfites or any other of my food allergens. I also have to avoid perfume because it can trigger my allergies and asthma, so I often have to leave a store empty handed for legitimate reasons. There are many other people who have the same problems I do. So, we are not likely to pay a fee for nothing.

    I have the same problem with many more allergies/intolerances than just my celiac disease. I often leave a site to go to the manufacturer's website to see what else they manufacture due to cross contamination. I also like to look for personal comments on items before spending my hard earned cash on a product I've never tried before. I will never pay to browse!

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    I understand why she is doing it -- why should she spend time serving as a nutritionist to people who enter the store for the sole purpose of having her services, not to purchase items from her? Maybe a loyal customer card in lieue of the $5 for those who are repeat shoppers who might not find what they are looking for during a particular visit?

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    I understand the frustration of the shop owner, but the question left unanswered is why she is not able to compete with other online stores. If she has them in conversation online and fails to make a sale, there is something wrong with her salesmanship. Online customers are sensitive to nuances in presentation, and while they may be grateful for information, they flee from a sour attitude.

    She has a physical store you can do hands on, her complaint is folks who visit just to see products in person before ordering elsewhere online. What I don't understand is why she does not have an online component to her store and advertise her online competitive prices in the physical store.

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    I understand why she is doing it -- why should she spend time serving as a nutritionist to people who enter the store for the sole purpose of having her services, not to purchase items from her? Maybe a loyal customer card in lieue of the $5 for those who are repeat shoppers who might not find what they are looking for during a particular visit?

    If the problem is that people are not paying for the nutritional advice she provides she could either:

    1. Stop providing the advice

    or

    2. Charge for her nutritional services.

    Either way she is not charging a browsing fee. Having staff that is knowledgeable about the products the store carries is not really nutritional advice so much as doing one's job. We expect restaurant staff to know what's in the food they serve - it is the same for a grocery store. We expect even more out of specialty stores and restaurants who cater to people who need these services like those of us with celiac disease. That is the whole selling point of their company. Again, that is customer service and being knowledgeable about what you do not necessarily an added service or nutritional advice. For example, I am a house painter. I offer free color suggestions to all of my customers but if you want a full color consult that is an extra fee. The fee is reduced if you use our painting services. She could do the exact same. Give free advice and charge for full nutritional consulting. Reduce the fee if they buy a bunch of food. Really the issue is the owner needs to figure out how to run a profitable business and I don't think this is the solution.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.


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