Store Wages War Against ‘Showrooming’ by Charging a $5 ‘Just Looking’ Fee


‘Showrooming’ is something that’s having a big effect in the camera equipment industry and something that many brick-and-mortar retailers are trying to address. It’s when consumers walk into a store not with the intention of actually purchasing a camera or lens, but instead to play around with them and evaluate them in person before making the actual purchase for a lower price online.

One store over in Brisbane, Australia has come up with a novel strategy (but not so consumer friendly) for combatting showrooming. To ensure that only customers looking to purchase products walk through their doors, the store is charging a $5 fee just to browse its wares.

The sign above was spotted by Reddit user BarrettFox outside a specialty food store. It states that the $5 fee will be deducted once goods are purchased so that actual customers won’t incur any extra costs.

There has been a high volume of people who use this store as a reference and then purchase goods elsewhere […] This policy is in line with many other clothing, shoe and electronic stores who are also facing the same issue.

We have yet to hear of a single camera shop that has a similar policy (let us know if you know of one), and we have a feeling that implementing such a fee would likely not go over very well with photographers.

"Come on in! That'll be $5 for those 50 test shots!"

“Come on in! That’ll be $5 for those 50 test shots!”

Matt Brownell over at Daily Finance writes that it’s “the most misguided strategy we’ve seen for dealing with showrooming,” saying:

While it’s undoubtedly frustrating to have people use your store as a showroom just so they can buy the same goods online, imposing a cover charge is hardly the ideal solution. The goal of any retailer should be to impress customers with competitive pricing and great customer service — not treat their customers with suspicion and hostility from the moment they walk in the door.

That approach won’t just keep the showroomers away, either — it’s inevitably going to turn off a lot of potential customers who had no intention of showrooming, but aren’t about to step into a store that forces them to pay an entrance fee if they don’t find anything they like.

Larger retailers such as Best Buy and Target have begun going the “competitive pricing” route by offering price matching with online retailers.

Brownell also notes that at least one shoe store has tried charging a $20 “fitting fee.” What would the equivalent for a camera shop be? Charging customers per actuation shot on the demo camera models?

(via Reddit via Consumerist)

Image credit: Sign photo by BarrettFox and used with permission, Jessops – Cherry Street, Birmingham by ell brown

  • Adam

    So now everyone knows not to browse here, preventing them from getting even occasional in-store purchases. I love it when greedy scumbags go bankrupt.

  • fast eddie

    So what, they charge people $5 at the door, then refund the $5 at the register if they make a purchase, or keep it if a purchase isn’t made?

    Wow, not only is that a huge gyp, but it’s a sure fire way to drive away customers. Herpa derp o_O

  • frank mckenna

    Thats a place I will never go to.

  • Alexander Petricca

    I’d be inclined to say that that will only lead to loss of trade. A sizable percentage of customers avoid online retailers and will still want to try and feel the camera before purchase. Charging them for this will only cause them to go elsewhere.

    Brick and mortar retailers primary advantage over online retailers was the ability to see, try and hold the product. They’ve just taken this away from themselves.

  • kssmitch

    How about having a studio space built into the shop somewhere? Offer people a studio-trial of products. An assistant could even bring out alternative products for people to try out, for say half-an-hour, pre-booked. Charge for that, but give people that experience of being in a “professional” studio environment. It’d be a lot swisher and fancier than standing around in a shop and looking at a camera. I’m sure a lot of amateurs would feel a bit cool in that environment. You could have still-life set ups for them to practice on. Offer a discount voucher to allow it to be refunded if they buy it in the shop. The shops need to offer something “extra”, and that extra ought to be a unique experience.

  • chubbs

    Well, I’m sure that will have no negative impact on their sales whatsoever. Customers always buy a product on first look and seldom ever like to see what product stock stores have in preparation for an eventual future buy.


  • Tyson Robichaud

    What a great way to completely tank your business! Don’t worry about trying to be competitive via innovation and market outreach, just get lazy and charge your would be customers for taking the time to even walk into your store, done! If my local brick and mortar did this to me, it would be the very last time I’d ever step foot in there. Sure, I’ll “showroom” a little here and there, but I’ve also chosen to spend thousands (if not tens of thousands) choosing to purchase from my local store as long as their prices are in line with the current, legitimate retail pricing whenever possible. If they’re trying to charge more than a legitimate retail price elsewhere, I won’t buy it from them, easy.

  • Thomas J. Webb

    Stores that adopt such customer-hostile policies deserve to go out of business. What they can do is focus on what they can offer that other places can’t – hands-on experience. Rent cameras by the hour to people and consulting services. Make money off of people who are going to buy online anyway by offering them more services, rather than charging for looking.

  • ScottnLaguna

    Brick and mortars have a tough time dealing with online pricing. What else can they do to prevent the “Best Buy” problem? I have no issue with this solution. Just weeds out the riffraff. Sales tax vs. no sales tax is a bigger problem to tackle.

  • posesawkwardly

    Huh. How about building a relationship with the customers through excellent quality of service? Then they’ll feel guilty shopping online to save a few bucks.

  • Rob S

    So I suppose he will be giving a $5 discount for someone who uses Amazon/other sites to do all their research on an item but then buys it at his store? I have lost count how many times I have “reverse showroomed” a product – to the point using my free Amazon app to look up the rating on an items in the store.

    A fool and his money are lucky enough to get together in the first place – Gordon Geko

  • Rob S

    Apple, REI and others routinely charge MORE instore than online – even their OWN online. Yet somehow they not only survive but thrive. Its called service and value added.

  • Ivan

    How about reducing stores to showrooms (smaller space, no need for a warehouse or back office, less staff => cheaper operating costs per location) and then getting orders right there or directing customers to shop online at THEIR site, with warehouses and delivery facilities that could be in the middle of nowhere if they choose so => cheaper operating costs – again.

    Dell used to have something like this, if I remember well at Sherway Gardens mall, Toronto. The only problem in this particular case: putting an “order now, get it later” concept in a (remote) shopping mall where people expect “cash and carry” service is the very wrong choice. A downtown showroom would have worked much better. I guess this idea would apply to camera retailers as well.

  • TSY87

    does this confuse anyone other than me? I would totally understand (though disagree with the practice) if it was done at an electronics store.. but a specialty food store? I mean… Do people really need to look at what a filet Mignon looks like only to buy it somewhere else…. and in this case.. buy their food online?!

  • Rob S

    Dell tried it – it flopped. Service Merchandise did this – it flopped. If someone gets in their car and goes to a physical location they want their item NOW, not in 7-10 days.

  • Keith

    They are free to charge anything anyway they like. As a consumer, just don’t walk in to that store, period.

  • Steve

    It’s so stupid because a percentage of the people that think they’re just looking would probably buy something. Now they wont go in the shop at all. It might put some people off that had the intention to buy as well. Who wants to mess around with paying $5 only to find they haven’t got the camera you wanted in stock?

  • eraserhead12

    Way to build a great relationship with your customers, and encourage store traffic!!.. oh wait. Reminds me of when my work’s cafeteria tried to charge $.05/napkin.

  • eraserhead12

    seriously, if I drove all the way to the store I’m not going to drive back empty-handed to save a couple bucks–but I use amazon for reviews.

  • Bill

    Everyone is missing the point here. This is a huge opportunity for a customer to make some $$.
    You go in, pay your $5, browse a bit, buy an items for $1 and get $5 refunded. You just made $4 for shopping.

    Now they can argue over the $4 all they want, until I see a terms and conditions statement, I’ll hold them to that sign.

  • Forbs

    Your math I horribly flawed. You’re only getting your five dollars back and spending a dollar on an item.

  • Samuel

    Meanwhile the apple store which lets anyone play with anything in the store for as long as they like are actually doing well in the recession

  • Gojo

    Apple stores are different. Because no matter where you buy an Apple product from, money goes to Apple. Apple doesn’t mind show rooming their products because they own the stores as well as the web sources. They also strictly manage their prices so you can’t “shop around” for a better one.

    That’s why they’re successful.

  • Steve

    Also, in places like Australia, the ‘online’ that is being talked about isn’t another retailer, it’s a grey market dealer.

    The difference in price between grey market and legitimate stock in Australia is ridiculous. A 5d retails for around $3700 (this only makes the retailer 1-4%), however you can pick the item up through digitalRev for $2999 as theyre avoiding the ridiculous taxes and customs charges to get the stock in the country.

    Keep in mind that I’m not saying places like digitalRev are selling inferior products, or are dodgy dealers…

  • Mansgame

    Talk about making a problem worse. Stores still have a valid place when you need something now and the price is about the same.

  • Sterling

    Although Costco appears to be quite successful charging $50-$100 per year just to enter their stores.

  • Greg McKay

    The difference there though is people aren’t going to CostCo to “showroom”, they are going there to buy in bulk. As a CostCo member for many years I can’t ever remember a single time where I went into a CostCo and didn’t come out with a buggy full of toilet paper, shampoo, dog food and huge boxes of Captain Crunch! lol ;-)

  • Erik Lauri Kulo


  • Spongebob Nopants

    A camera store would never do this. Part of my research process is to visit a store and ask about items I’m interestted in or look for items I didn’t know existed.
    The last time I ordered an electronic item online was a $4000 computer. The UPS guy dropped the box from the truck right in front of me. I buy electronics and photo gear from shops.

    Then again I live in the the same city as B+H, Adorama and J+R (jeeealous?)

  • Becca Gulliver

    Dubious it would be that easy. I would expect there to be a buy something over x amount and get your $5’s back, besides how many camera stores have items that cost $1?

  • Richard Ford


  • Michael Mathews

    If you paid $5 to go in and then got $5 back, how are you making any money??????

  • Kay O. Sweaver

    This clearly isn’t the solution, but as someone who works at a camera store and deals with iPhone wielding showroomers all day I’d love to hear ideas on what we can do.

  • Ajay Fahlman

    I would never shop there again after reading that sign.

  • Ajay Fahlman

    They also have products and brands that are unavailable to non-members.

  • Chris

    Wow, this officially wins as the dumbest post ever written on a Petapixal article. Congrats.

  • Larry Gray

    As a shopper who makes multipe trips analyzing things before purchasing things, what a bad idea. Two examples, both bought locally.
    Camera bag…a highly personal thing. Local camera store has EXCELLENT selection, overwhelming with 6 brands of bags in various configurations. Reviewed on Saturday, narrowing down to 5 bags. Returned mid-week when they were not slammed with customers, brought in my gear and fitted to othe bag. Bought a Domke after ruling out a Lowepro, Tarmac, ThinkTank, Crumpler, and generic. That is two trips, but one refund.
    Another trip, looking at muslin backdrops. Bought locally, but at JoAnne Fabrics.
    Likewise, daughter shopping for a camera and on paper review research narrowed down to Nikon V2 or Sony NEX. Stopped by this camera store first as they carried Nikon and other brands including highe end specialty, like Leica. However, they did not carry Sony so side by side was impossible. Ultimately bought locally, but at the Sony store in a local mall.
    Thankfully, the store doesn’t have the “just looking” fee. If it did, there would be n reason to enter unless 100% committed to purchasing.

  • David Brier

    Imagine being charged for shoplifting by not paying the $5 looking fee???

  • neutrino

    Charge competitive prices?

  • neutrino

    First, they don’t charge per visit. If they charged $5 for everytime you lusted after an iPad, their brick and mortar stores would not do so well. Second, it’s not service at all, it’s the ability to have your product right now rather than wait for delivery.

  • neutrino

    Yes, it is hard to compete when you don’t offer a good price. Welcome to business 101.

  • neutrino

    Agreed. People aren’t saying it’s not fair or permissible, they’re arguing that it’s not a good business tactic.

  • Gavin

    I would totally pay $5 to enter if I could buy Nikon batteries or filters or memory cards in bulk and know im saving from the same brand at walmart (like your toilet paper).