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Store charges AU$5 just to look around

A brick-and-mortar store in Brisbane is so vexed by online shoppers using its space as a showroom that it has instituted a AU$5 entry fee.

A brick-and-mortar store in Brisbane is so vexed by online shoppers using its space as a showroom that it has instituted a AU$5 entry fee.

(Credit: BarrettFox)

There's no denying that internet shopping has had an impact on brick-and-mortar stores; often, goods can be found online for less money, which means brick-and-mortar stores can have trouble keeping up.

But there's another practice that can cause grief. There are times when buyers want to find out more about an item before purchasing: what it looks like, if it fits (for clothing), how it works; or they'll want to talk to a professional to ask questions. Then they'll take themselves off with their knowledge and purchase elsewhere. Called "showrooming", this practice has led one store to take a new tack.

Celiac Supplies in Brisbane — a store that sells specialty food for people with Coeliac Disease — has instituted a AU$5 entry fee.

According to the sign (above), Celiac Supplies is fed up with people who just wander in, ask questions and leave — and apparently, "many other clothing, show, and electronic stores" are instituting a similar policy (although no one, to our knowledge, has seen one).

The store owner elaborated on Facebook, "I get some very sick people 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."

While the internet has responded with indignation, flooding the Celiac Supplies Facebook page with angry posts, it's hard not to feel a little sympathy for small businesses trying to stay afloat in a an internet world. It's hard to blame a store owner for trying to recoup costs — but there has to be a better way to go about it.

Some have suggested a consultation fee, which seems a bit more reasonable, since it won't penalise the customer who doesn't find what they're looking for.

Do you run a small business? What ways have you found to stay afloat against the rising tide of internet shoppers?