Celiac Supplies, a gluten-free grocery store in Brisbane Australia has made worldwide news this week, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Earlier this week on March 26, in response to a photo and post by a Reddit user, the Adelaide Now newspaper ran a story about how the owner of this store has decided to charge potential customers $5 for “just looking”. Since then, the story has gone viral. The owner’s reasons — she was spending hours each week giving free advice to people who were then leaving and buying the similar product elsewhere. In her words “I’m not here to dispense a charity service for the Coles and Woolworths [large grocery stores] to make more money.”
So she put up a poster on her front door which read in part —
As of the first of February, this store will be charging people a $5 fee per person for “just looking.” The $5 fee will be deducted when goods are purchased.
Why has this come about? There has been a 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 that are simply not available anywhere else.
My response — are you crazy? I believe that if you want people to buy — buy your product, or your service, or even you — then you need to show them, clearly, in brilliant technicolour, the compelling value that you have to offer. In fact, I blogged on just this subject back in May last year when I ran into a similar experience trying to help my in-laws rent an apartment (Be prepared to show what you “sell”). Which means that you do whatever it takes to help your clients or customers (or even potential employers) see, first-hand, what it is that you or your product or your service does to meet their needs or make their lives easier. Yet here is a store owner, who depends on people seeing value in what she offers, driving people away instead of welcoming them in!
What do you think? If you walked into a store and were told that you would be charged to browse, would you pay up or just walk away? Is this pure stupidity on the part of the store owner, or is it a good business decision. C’mon what’s your opinion?