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Gluten-free Specialty Store Charges Five Bucks For Looking 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. 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 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

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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.” welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).

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11 Responses:

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said this on
03 May 2013 1:39:01 AM PDT
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.

John Fuselier
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said this on
03 May 2013 6:49:41 AM PDT
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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said this on
12 May 2013 10:01:34 AM PDT
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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said this on
06 May 2013 6:17:11 AM PDT
Well, they must charge upfront - so you have the option of not going in at all. Wonder what she loses with that option?? I would not go in and wish her "Lots of Luck"!!


said this on
06 May 2013 8:24:17 AM PDT
Great way to reduce the number of customers! If the store is competitive, then the offensive, penalty tactic is unnecessary. Sounds like a plan to go out of business.

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said this on
06 May 2013 10:38:32 AM PDT
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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said this on
08 May 2013 2:40:17 AM PDT
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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said this on
06 May 2013 3:20:21 PM PDT
Fantastic! In time, Georgina may have to pay customers to shop. Or earn business the old fashion way: work harder/smarter.

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said this on
06 May 2013 3:42:45 PM PDT
I'm not sure I would go into a store that I had to pay to look at their stuff. I think that is going to back fire.


said this on
08 May 2013 7:07:30 AM PDT
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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said this on
13 May 2013 10:23:34 AM PDT
If the problem is that people are not paying for the nutritional advice she provides she could either:
1. Stop providing the advice
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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