The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

18 December 2005

Touching is extra

Should local merchants charge a "browsing fee"?

No, really:

[S]ome malls are so full of really awful stores that it's just not fun to shop there. For example, the best of our three local malls (I use the word "best" very advisedly) has eighteen sneaker stores, thirty-six visor-hat stores, twelve "rave" type of clothing stores, a Sears, a Target, bunches of Limiteds and Gaps, a Filenes, a Best Buy, and an Old Navy. I'm exaggerating the numbers but the proportions are right and the downscaleness is notable.

For a place like that, they should pay you.

Then again, there's this scenario:

The only way many of us can do fabulous shopping is to shop online. Which removes the immediacy, the touching and seeing, and the fun adrenaline rush of really good search-and-find shopping. And it's unfair to the local merchants who make huge efforts but can't lower their prices. Only a small proportion of our shopping dollars are spent locally any more. We check out things like books and digital cameras in local stores — feel them, see them, weigh them, etc. — then get wider choices and better prices plus get them delivered into our hands by buying online. It's logical and understandable but seems economically and ethically icky.

My rule of thumb: if someone from the store has actually assisted with the examination of the product, that someone gets the sale if I buy. (It doesn't hurt that if it's something I really want, I know I'll really hate waiting for it.) Time should be considered part of the price: having something in two minutes can justify a premium over having it in two days.

Then again, I place a fairly high value on convenience: it is wholly unlike me to drive four miles up the road to save three cents a gallon on unleaded. Your mileage may vary.

Posted at 9:27 AM to Dyssynergy

Man, they'd have to be out of thier damned minds if anyone thinks I'd pay a browsing fee. It practically takes a court order to get my ass into a mall as it is.

Posted by: aldahlia at 4:46 PM on 18 December 2005

I agree that time enters into the equation, but that gives another edge to the online merchants. Tough world out there fore small stores. BTW, I was thinking out loud, not recommending a browsing fee.

Posted by: anne at 7:41 PM on 18 December 2005

Stores like Best Buy and Staples have come up with what I think is a good compromise: order online, but pick up at the store. I assume that the store gets credit (whatever that means) for the sale, especially if the item is already stocked there.

I'd really prefer to buy everything locally and don't mind paying a slight premium to support the local merchants (or the local franchise of the global merchants), but I refuse to compromise on my choice of a product to "settle" for what's in local inventory.

Posted by: Eric at 9:47 PM on 18 December 2005

I drive over to the west edge of town frequently to purchase gasoline. It is worth it when you save a nickel or more per gallon.

I have also been guilty of finding something in a store and then ordering it online cheaper.

Posted by: ms7168 at 3:31 AM on 19 December 2005