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Old 02-11-2013, 04:28 PM   #76
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Barnsley commented: "Certain shoeshops in the US are already charging customers to try on shoes, she noted.''
I don't think I'd trust her-the only way this could be true is via the qualifier 'certain'. Maybe very, very, high-end? Ordinary shoe stores certainly aren't so her statement shows her inclination to inflate the truth. I'm sure that applies to her opinion of book stores, too.

Like an auto dealership. If you're in the market for a Ferrari then you probably don't mind paying for a test-drive, but most dealership survive by selling Fords (or equivalent).
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Old 02-11-2013, 04:32 PM   #77
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Showrooming isn't any different from a moral standpoint than comparison shopping; there's no moral obligation to pay more money. This is just a shift in consumer behaviour, there's no moral component to it. And to those that complain about slipping morals, are you complaining about declining morals, or a decline in the number of people sharing your particular preferences?

Having your bookstore open to the public is your choice if you're running a bookstore; no one is morally obligated to buy from you just because you've decided to structure your business in a way that invites browsing without buying.
Morality is a matter of opinion. There's no objective measure for it, and you'll get at least as many opinions as you ask people.

There are legitimate reasons to object to "showrooming" for some retailers. In places like an electronics store, where people are shopping for expensive items they don't necessarily know much about, and are looking for help in choosing the right one, it's an expensive waste of time. The store pays the employees to spend time with people who have no intention of buying, and while helping those people, they can't help people who would buy if they could get some help. So there, I suspect, a lot of people would see it as somewhat unethical, and it is more common thant it used to be.

However, this does not describe the typical book store. People don't go to a book store to talk to the employees about what to buy, they go to browse the books, and it costs the store nothing to have people wandering the aisles looking. At that point, charging a cover fee becomes unethical, IMO.

When your book store is failing, it isn't because people are coming in and not buying, it's because people are not buying. Giving potential customers incentives to not come in at all won't help. Finding out why they're not buying might. Convincing them to not come in at all will prevent you from finding out why they're not buying.

This whole idea is from someone who has clearly never worked in the trenches in retail.
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Old 02-11-2013, 04:38 PM   #78
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Building relationships with customers is another way.
Speaking from personal experience, working for a retailer that hasn't had a single layoff in the last ten years, yes, that is a very good way.

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Now I'm not going to say that I agree with showrooming or that I participate in it. Yet I am not going to claim that it is immoral
Immoral is such a loaded word. I find "unethical" more descriptive. In many cases, a perfectly reasonable view, even if I don't generally agree with it.

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because there is actually nothing wrong with it. If a business can't convince a customer that they should buy the product in their store because it is cheaper online, then they did a poor job in communicating the benefits of buying from them.
What you said. I've seen B&M retail done right, and my employer isn't really afraid of anybody.
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Old 02-11-2013, 04:53 PM   #79
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Immoral is such a loaded word. I find "unethical" more descriptive. In many cases, a perfectly reasonable view, even if I don't generally agree with it.
I don't see anything unethical with it at all, not unless the market economy is an inherently unethical construct.

Fact is, if the shopper's decision to buy online was already set in stone, there would be no reason for them to visit the showroom at all. They would just order online. They may EXPECT that they will buy it online, but if they are showrooming, they are shopping, and if a merchant is lucky enough to have them shopping in HIS retail store, he has the chance to sell to them, which he'd not have had if the person had made up his mind and clicked Buy Now.

A tangentially related anecdote: A few years ago, a local Mercedes dealer send out invites: Come in for a free test drive and get a fairly high-dollar-value Amazon gift card (I can't remember the amount, but it was generous). I brought the invite in and said "I'm here in response to this bribe."
They laughed and said "Do you really want a test drive or can we just give you the gift card?" I took the gift card. That left me feeling pretty good about the place. As I was walking out, I looked at the cars. They were very nice. And some were really not as expensive as I thought they'd be. I'd never considered getting a Mercedes before, partially because of the perceived cost, and until then, I would never have stopped in when I was really car shopping.
But now I was thinking about it. Because they got me in the door, treated me well, and showed me some value I wasn't expecting.

Last edited by ApK; 02-11-2013 at 04:59 PM.
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Old 02-11-2013, 05:07 PM   #80
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This would be a suicidal suggestion.
At the moment, any time I'm in town I'll drop into the bookstore to see if anything new has come out that looks interesting. Every so often there will be something, and I'll buy it.
If there is going to be a charge to walk through the door, I'm not going to go in on the off-chance. I'll go online to search to see if there is anything of interested first. And once I've done that, why not just order it online.
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Old 02-11-2013, 05:27 PM   #81
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Personally, I'd pay a small fee (like a dollar) if it were a book store with really specialized content (such as the used foreign bookstore, because I can't get those books online without paying extremely high shipping costs), or if it were a really huge bookstore. I'd be especially likely to pay a fee for a used bookstore because I'm more likely to make a purchase there.

However, I think bookstores that implement this policy might see two unintended consequences:

1) By "punishing" everyone for the "sins" of the showroomers, they also publicize the practice of showrooming. When the employees tell people "well, we have to have this policy because of the showroomers" they'll be informing people about this practice.

2) It may actually accelerate showrooming. Setting a fee for something makes people feel like they've been given permission to do it. There was once a daycare that had a problem with parents picking their kids up late. So, they decided to charge a fee, thinking it would discourage them. But, instead there was an increase in late pick-ups! The parents now felt that they were paying to do it, so they felt they were morally permitted to.

I can see a fee meaning that people who previously didn't showroom because they felt it was wrong or rude now doing so openly.
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Old 02-11-2013, 06:01 PM   #82
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Of course it's not just B&M vs online with bookstores. I may browse a bookstore and purchase online for myself. However, I'm still in the market when it comes to buying for someone else.

The fact is, I'll most likely look around in a bookstore and then try and get the same item in a department store for cheaper. The only advantage a bookstore has for me is the limited display (of all things). There's no customer service to speak of, no added value - just higher prices.

But it can be convenient to look at the rather small displays to see if anything pops out as it's more likely to do in that situation. Once it has, nearly everywhere else on the planet is cheaper, not just online stores.
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Old 02-11-2013, 06:43 PM   #83
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I think the idea for paying for browsing is insane. If a bookstore were more convenient (like in my village) I would browse, and I would buy, even though my preference is ebooks. I went to Costco by myself yesterday, and the only thing I did differently than when I go with my husband was to spend 30 minutes browsing the books. Ended up buying 3, as well. Complete Grimm Fairytales because I love the show Grimm, and even though I have it in ebook form, it was in a compact, cute form. Also bought a Cubs book, because I display those in the bedroom bookcase, and it is the Cubs. Finally, bought a mystery, it looked good, was only $7.99, and I have reached the age where I could never remember the name of the book one I got home, and it wasn't worth getting out my blackberry and emailing. So, browsing does have its benefits, even for someone who rarely buys a pbook.
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Old 02-11-2013, 06:55 PM   #84
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I don't see anything unethical with it at all, not unless the market economy is an inherently unethical construct.
Just because you (or I, as I said) don't necessarily agree with it doesn't mean it's not a reasonable position. Neither your opinion nor mine is worth more than anybody paid for it.

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Fact is, if the shopper's decision to buy online was already set in stone, there would be no reason for them to visit the showroom at all.
The scenario in question that many people consider unethical, is one where the shopper has decided they're going to buy something, and they're pretty sure (or completely certain) they're going to buy it online, but they haven't decided precisely which particular something. So they go to a local store, and quiz the sales staff, possibly taking a considerable amount of their time away from potential actual customers, with no intention of buying there.

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They would just order online. They may EXPECT that they will buy it online, but if they are showrooming, they are shopping, and if a merchant is lucky enough to have them shopping in HIS retail store, he has the chance to sell to them, which he'd not have had if the person had made up his mind and clicked Buy Now.
That's obviously the case for you, but it isn't a universal truth. There are a lot of people who do, in fact, go in to stores, take up sales people's time, and have no intention whatsoever of buying there. It's a dishonest attitude, in its core. It's part of the business in retail, and any retailer that isn't ready to accept that is doomed by their own incompetence, but that doesn't make it any less dishonest on the part of those people.

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A tangentially related anecdote: A few years ago, a local Mercedes dealer send out invites: Come in for a free test drive and get a fairly high-dollar-value Amazon gift card (I can't remember the amount, but it was generous). I brought the invite in and said "I'm here in response to this bribe."
They laughed and said "Do you really want a test drive or can we just give you the gift card?" I took the gift card. That left me feeling pretty good about the place. As I was walking out, I looked at the cars. They were very nice. And some were really not as expensive as I thought they'd be. I'd never considered getting a Mercedes before, partially because of the perceived cost, and until then, I would never have stopped in when I was really car shopping.
But now I was thinking about it. Because they got me in the door, treated me well, and showed me some value I wasn't expecting.
And that was precisely according to their plan, in that case, I suspect. A more on-topic anecdote would be my camera. I knew I would be buying a camera, and had picked out a particular model Nikon from their pro line. I shopped it online, and found that Amazon had the best price for anyone that I'd do business with (lot of fraud in camera sales online, gotta be very careful), but I wanted to go by the local pro shop to see what they thought. First thing the salesman told me as "Only opinion I have on that model is I'd never buy one." We spent two hours talking cameras, with him showing me what he'd done with the Canon he recommended, and why. Ended up selling me a camera that cost half as much as what I'd come in to buy, but even at that, for at least $100 more than I could have gotten it online. (Bought an upgraded lens, too, and ended up spending what I'd planned to, but with a much better camera for me.)

I knew full well when I pulled out the credit card that I could beat their price online, but I'm quite willing to pay for the expertise as well as the goods. Not everyone is. The trend lately is for people who do exactly what I did, then buy online, after wasting two hours of the salesman's time with no intention whatsoever of buying.

Whether you agree or not, a lot of people do find that unethical.
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Old 02-11-2013, 06:57 PM   #85
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2) It may actually accelerate showrooming. Setting a fee for something makes people feel like they've been given permission to do it. There was once a daycare that had a problem with parents picking their kids up late. So, they decided to charge a fee, thinking it would discourage them. But, instead there was an increase in late pick-ups! The parents now felt that they were paying to do it, so they felt they were morally permitted to.
You say that like it's a bad thing. My first thought is that it tells them there's an untapped market they could easily fill. It's only a matter of finding out how much the market will bear.
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Old 02-11-2013, 07:11 PM   #86
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There are plenty of times I would love to be able to purchase in a store rather than have to shop online and wait for delivery, but more and more often I am forced to do just that.

I speak up about it too, to let the stores who discontinue stocking a product I buy regularly know that they will be losing that sale to an online vendor but they simply do not care.
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Old 02-11-2013, 07:24 PM   #87
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If your problem is that no one buys stuff from your store or comes into your store, you cannot solve this by adding extra fees. There are too many cheaper options out there. Do they think carriage makers would have survived if they started adding a visitation fee?
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Old 02-11-2013, 07:32 PM   #88
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I think the important question for everyone going into a bookstore to browse is whether you find it a valuable experience, and whether you think you'll be worse off it you can no longer do it. If you think you'll be worse off, then you should be supporting the store by making purchases there, simply out of self-interest. You don't need to see it as an ethical or moral problem to decide whether it's okay for you to browse in a store and buy online. If you think you can live without the store when it goes away, then put it to the test first. Spend time buying online without visiting physical stores to get a better perspective on how valuable showroom browsing really is to you. Better to find out before it goes away.
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Old 02-11-2013, 07:33 PM   #89
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Morality is a matter of opinion. There's no objective measure for it, and you'll get at least as many opinions as you ask people.
A few things:

(i) there are a lot of people (both religious and secular philosophers) who would disagree that morality is just a "matter of opinion";

(ii) even if it is just opinion, not all opinions are equally valid (this seems to be a common fallacy people ascribe to); and

(iii) calling this behaviour "immoral" or "unethical" stretches those words to the point of meaninglessness.

If we're going to go so crazy as to say that this is immoral, why not go all the way and describe it as "retail terrorism"? Would that opinion be equally valid?
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Old 02-11-2013, 07:40 PM   #90
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A few things:

(i) there are a lot of people (both religious and secular philosophers) who would disagree that morality is just a "matter of opinion";
Indeed. But when objective proof is, by definition, impossible, it is just that.

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(ii) even if it is just opinion, not all opinions are equally valid (this seems to be a common fallacy people ascribe to); and

(iii) calling this behaviour "immoral" or "unethical" stretches those words to the point of meaninglessness.
While I agree that the behavior in question is neither, but simply part of the business, I disagree that it's a stretch of the meaning of the words in all cases. I've explained the most obvious scenario in which a lot of people would disagree with you (and me).

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If we're going to go so crazy as to say that this is immoral, why not go all the way and describe it as "retail terrorism"? Would that opinion be equally valid?
Reductio ad absurdum is a fallacy, and not worth dignifying with an answer.
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