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Retailers Fight ‘Showrooming’ by Charging Visitors to Browse

“Showrooming” is a relatively new phenomenon in the retail world, but it appears to be growing. It’s basically the act of visiting a physical store, checking out the prices on the items you want, then buying them online for less. (We assume celebrities hire people to do this sort of thing, but what do we know.)

So customers walk around stores armed with their smartphones, checking to make sure they can get that TV or iPad a little cheaper on Amazon. It’s a big deal for retailers because, of course, their ultimate goal to encourage browsers to actually buy stuff. And they’re dealing with it in different ways.

Best Buy, for example, rolled out a promo campaign to combat “showrooming” by promising consumers that it would match or beat the price offered by local and online retailers for every product in stock. Bold move, but this week Reddit users found an Australian specialty foods retailer with an even more brazen approach: charging customers $5 just to browse.

Frankly, we don’t think this approach will work. It implies that the retailer simply doesn’t trust the public — which is a terrible PR move. If it were a high-end store then charging visitors $5 to look around might make sense. But don’t most people visit the Gucci store just to browse anyway? It’s not like anyone can actually afford that stuff.

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