A store in Australia has decided to charge a $5 dollar browsing fee, refundable upon making a purchase. This is an awesomely bad idea. How on earth would you enforce it? Prevent a customer from leaving the store until he paid? And what kind of message does that send to potential customers? Don’t shop there, because if you decide you don’t want to buy that day they’ll charge you for your time?
I’m reminded of a sign I saw in a store in my town, asking customers not to use credit cards unless they really needed to, because of the extra expense for the store. Fair enough, particular as most customers are probably unaware of the fees imposed on shopkeepers. But the sign continued on to say something like, “we provide credit card purchases only as a customer service, and we don’t have to allow it.” Technically true, but as Adam Smith pointed out, it’s not from the benevolence of the brewer that we get our beer. Likewise, allowing credit card purchases is also not a benevolent act. I encourage the store owner to really act on his threat and find out just where the line between benevolence and self-interest lies. Either that or stop writing signs that both insult your customers and pose threats you’re not willing to carry out.