I was shocked to read about an Australian shop who are charging customers $5 for coming into their shop, looking around, and leaving empty handed. However, one line in the article caught my attention and I can very much sympathise.

At the end of March the Interweb started buzzing with news of a shop owner in Coorparoo, Brisbane, who put a sign up in her window informing ‘customers’ that they would be charged $5 for “just lookingâ€. “This $5 fee will be deducted when goods are purchased.â€

Beneath the headline there’s then an explanation for “Why has this come about?â€

There has been high volume of people who use this store as a reference and then purchase goods elsewhere. These people are unaware our prices are almost the same as the other stores plus we have products simply not available anywhere else.

This policy is in line with many other clothing, shoe, and electronic stores who are also facing the same issue.


I thought it was ridiculous when I first read it – was the shop concerned about wear and tear? As this article was on a web news site I knew there would be some argument against e-commerce behind the story, so I immediately thought “well what about websites who have to pay for hosting for people to browse?†Surely that’s equivalent to people wearing away a shop’s carpet.

But then a couple of lines caught my eye –

The owner of the store, which sells gluten-free products, says that she was tired of “spending hours each week giving advice to people who leave empty-handed.â€

She claims that around 60 people a week would come in, browse, ask her questions, and then leave to buy the product online (she assumes).



And now I see her point. I can’t tell you how many emails I get just asking for advice on how people can do something themselves on Facebook, or what free shop options are good, or how they should find a good WordPress plugin. All things that aren’t going to result in any work for me to pay my mortgage with.

It’s hard to find time to actually earn a living when people are asking for you free advice – constantly. That’s part of the reason behind starting this blog – because I really like to help and would love to be able to do it more, but I just can’t do it all the time. So when a question comes up, I write it here and then next time I can just send a link to it rather than explain it again.

I can therefore completely see why the shop keeper in Brisbane – running a Celiac (gluten free) supplies shop reached the end of her tether. But she should have gotten clever about it!

I suppose you could argue that this strategy got her a lot of PR! And people may now – if they’ve taken the time to hear her side of it – appreciate that if they want an expert’s advice it’s only fair to then buy from that expert. But the actual wording of the poster will not have earned her many fans!

If people are asking her lots of questions, she needs to find a way to turn that into a positive.

  • She could run clinics to invite people in, 1 hour a week, to ask questions and receive “expert adviceâ€.  OK, she might open the door to even more ad-hoc questions but by having a set time for questions she can really label it as “expert adviceâ€. There could then be discount vouchers available for purchases made immediately after these clinics. If she’s got any margin to offer 10% off, then she could do it in short sharp bursts one morning a week rather than always have her prices set so low.

  • She could set up her own website with more information, and when people ask a big question, send them there. With a link to where they can buy the product in her online store.

  • She could make it clear around her shop that her prices are competitive with online retailers (if they are – as the poster claims), pointing out any benefits such as no delivery costs.

  • She could have done the same poster – without the $5 fee – just stating her case a little more sensitively. “Support your local business†kinda approach.


I’d be very interested to know if the $5 fee was stuck to – I would never have the nerve, or want to, charge £5 to read and reply to an email asking for help!