An Australian supermarket has begun charging customers who don’t buy anything a $5 “browsing” fee. Could this be an emerging trend for brick-and-mortar retail stores? And is it something you’d be willing to put up with?
Browsing picture from Shutterstock
The controversial ‘browsing fee’ is the latest revenue-raising initiative of Celiac Supplies; a gluten-free supermarket in Coorparoo, Queensland. According to store manager Georgina, the policy was put in place to discourage shoppers from using her shop to reference products before buying them elsewhere at a cheaper price. Apparently, an average of 60 people would go into the store each week, ask questions about certain products and then head out without buying anything.
“I’ve had a gut full of working and not getting paid. I’m not here to dispense a charity service for Coles and Woolworths to make more money,” the manager told the Australian Associated Press.
Now, you could argue that consumers should be able to browse at their leisure and pressuring them to buy something is a violation of their rights. On the other hand, retail stores are private property and managers are allowed to withhold service from whomever they choose, provided they aren’t breaking any discrimination laws.
Likewise, as long as the store is upfront about its T&Cs, they can legally charge any arbitrary fee that takes their fancy (a good example is restaurants and their dodgy corkage fees and holiday surcharges).
That said, we can’t imagine it would be terribly easy to enforce this rule. If you told them to get stuffed and walked out of the store would they actually call the police? After all, you haven’t stolen anything.
As we have reported in the past, the brick-and-mortar retail industry is having a tough time staying afloat, but surely antagonising prospective customers is not the answer?
We’re keen to hear your thoughts on this unusual development. Would you still shop in a store that enforced such a policy? If the Apple Store started adding a browsing/consulting fee, would you still chat to their staff? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.