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Store charges $5 'showrooming' fee to looky-loos

Sick of feeling like an offline showroom for online buyers, a specialty food store in Australia institutes a $5 showrooming fee for shoppers.

Showrooming sign
It's a sign of the times. (Click to enlarge.)

Celiac Supplies, a Brisbane, Australia, store specializing in gluten-free groceries, has unveiled a shopping policy that has fired up the controversy around "showrooming," the act of checking out products in-person at a store and then going online to buy them for a lower price.

Celiac Supplies posted a sign notifying customers of a $5 fee for in-store browsing. That fee then would be deducted from the cost of any in-store purchase. As images of the store's sign spread on Reddit, so did consumer outrage. Reddit user SimplyGeek summed up the sentiments saying, "I would never walk into a store with this policy. It's so incredibly ignorant, self-defeating, and hostile to potential customers."

On Celiac Supplies' Facebook page, the store responded to inquiries about the issue by saying, "I get some very sick people coming through the door and all occupy 20 to 30 minutes average of time. Like anyone else, I would like to get paid for my work. Only volunteers and people on community service work for nothing."

Are showrooming fees going to be a new trend? Some Reddit users mentioned knowing of clothing stores with showrooming fees, but no other signs along the lines of Celiac Supplies' have come to light just yet. It seems to be a manifestation of the frustration store owners are feeling about the impact of online commerce.

Showrooming can be a serious problem for bricks-and-mortar businesses, but imagine the fallout if a store like Best Buy implemented a cover charge for checking out digital cameras.

What do you think about the showrooming fee? Is it reasonable, or is there a better way to deal with the issue?

(Via BoingBoing)