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Diatribe: Charging A “Just Looking” Fee.


justlookingfeeI’m an inconsistent shopper.  It seems that I either make impulse purchases or I study, research, compare, price check and shop until my head spins.  I can either make a quick decision or a long drawn-out purchase but there is little in between.  Certainly, bigger purchases like a new vehicle or a computer should be afforded more thought and consideration than a pair of shoes stumbled upon at a discounted price.

Like many, I also like to window shop.  “Let’s go to the mall!” doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be shopping for anything in particular.  I like to be welcomed into a store as a potential customer every time

Recently, a store in Australia has begun to charge a $5 “just looking” fee to customers who leave without making purchases.  The store claims to have had a problem with people using them as a reference for prices, etc. and then making their purchases online instead.  They posted the following notice:

Dear Customers,

As of the first of February, this store will be charging people a $5 fee per person for ‘just looking.’

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.

This policy is in line with many other clothing, shoe and electronic stores who are also facing the same issue.


I see nothing wrong with trying on shoes at the mall to test for fit and comfort before purchasing them online from another retailer.  If the online retailer offers free shipping or other discounts that make it more economical for me to buy from them, that’s what I’ll do.

Sure, it’s probably frustrating to see customers come and go without making a purchase but, if they’re really concerned with people “just looking” in their store, they should consider a price-matching policy, a (heaven forbid) rewards program or even simple coupons.  They most certainly should not charge a toll at their door.


Would you even consider shopping in a store with this policy?!


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From → Diatribes

  1. I think if I saw that sign in a shop’s window, it would deter me from shopping there. Sometimes I’m not looking for anything in particular or I am looking for a gift for someone and need to get some ideas. It’s ridiculous to charge someone a fee to “look” in the store, but not buy anything. Perhaps they should just charge an entrance fee right at the door.


  2. I would never go into a store that basically charges me just to go in. I mean, do I have the right to charge the store if a salesperson doesn’t help me? Can I deduct from the price of my purchase the amount of time I had to waste looking in their store?

    This idea is the height of ridiculosity. [not a word, but it fits]


    • I agree with you. This is the same mentality that keeps me from shopping at “clubs” like Costco that require a paid membership. I refuse to pay for the privilege of paying for anything!

      I like your word!


  3. Showrooming is a real problem for retailers, but this is about the worst possible solution. I’m not going to go into a store knowing that if I don’t want anything, it’s going to cost me money.


  4. i would not shop there. what if they don’t have what i was looking for? should i have to pay for their failure to stock what i want?

    there’s a local ballet supply shop that charges to try shoes on, then applies the fee to the purchase price of the shoes. i was horrified at the time, but i don’t object to it now that i realize they were serving as a fitting room for the cheaper sources online.

    i’ve heard people use our local independent bookseller as a preview service. if they like what they see, they buy it from amazon on their smart phones right there in the store. i admit it’d be nice to prevent that kind of thing. people who fail to support the local options soon don’t have local options, but charging people to let them look isn’t the answer.


    • I see no difference between what the Australian store is doing and what your local ballet supply shop is doing. Clearly, they sell similar ballet shoes at higher prices than other retailers. If their prices were in line, shoppers would likely pay for the service that they provide in their store.

      Personally, I think a lot of problems in retail stem from the fact that customer service is quickly becoming a thing of the past. In today’s shopping world, we find ourselves more and more often in a self-serve environment yet retailers still expect their customers to pay for a service that they’re really not providing. Stocking the shelves is not a customer service.

      It is quite a quandary. But I, for one, will never shop in a store that will charge me to NOT buy their merchandise.


      • i have no problem with pricing a service. the fitting service was offered free by local competition, though, and i bought the daughter’s shoes at another local shop.

        there’s a shoe store here that has (had?) a sign in the window warning all shoplifters that they’d be on camera while in the store and threatening dire consequences for the crime. it’s a large sign that was the first thing i saw when i walked up to the door. i didn’t go in. i’ll shop for shoes where i’m welcomed.

        there used to be a used book store here that had signs threatening to sell unattended children as slaves. i won’t go in anyplace that thinks that kind of threat is cute. signs offering them espresso and a puppy, well, that’s different.

        customer service isn’t always enough to keep customers buying when the goal of cheaper prices seems to trump everything else. but bad customer service is always enough to keep me away. some stores seem to feel like they are doing you a favor to let you in.


  5. As someone who made his living in retail I’ll not get on my soapbox. Concerning customer service, payroll is the biggest controllable expense so sales people have to do more tasks then selling – it’s a vicious circle. Second, while I’m sure all of you are perfect customers, many, many are not. Plus the pay sucks!

    With this shopping fee, I suspect that this store has a highly specialized product that is sold in a privately owned store and can either be bought in that one store or online from many sources. If the store is a company store like say The GAP then they don’t care where the sales come from and see their brick and mortar stores as showrooms.


    • Do you agree with the “Just Looking” fee?

      I, too spent a great deal of my life working in retail. Perfect or not, the customer has the money and they get to decide where they spend it. The customer might not always be right, but they’re always the customer … and without them no retail business will survive.

      What’s next? A “booth rental” at Denny’s where the cost of your meal is applied upon departure?

      It will be interesting to see how this concept evolves.


  6. I hate shopping in the first place, but if I were to see a sign like this in a store’s window – I would take my business elsewhere. Competition is what retail is all about! If you don’t want people to buy your goods somewhere else, them be competitive or give them added value for their purchase (like giving someone a cleaning cloth when they buy a pair of shoes, etc.).
    When people go shopping, they may walk into a number of stores looking at what is available, checking out prices until they finally see something that catches their eye & matches their budget. I would hate to think I couldn’t check out the different styles & prices if I want to purchase something because I could no longer afford the purchase after paying the “looking” fees!
    Boo, hiss!


  7. i find it pretty hilarious. I’d never go in there….but it’s hilarious.


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