First, let’s get the validity question out of the way. It could be phony or someone’s idea of an early April Fool’s joke. It was originally posted on Reddit, then was picked up by The Consumerist. That’s all I have on the origin and I don’t doubt that it’s real. I do doubt that the store owner is forcing customers to hand over a $5 bill the minute they step inside the store. That’s the only way you could enforce the rule as you can’t lock the door behind them then force them to pay in toll in order to leave.
The concept isn’t far off from one we all know and abide by – the cover charge. Many nightclubs and bars make customers pay a minimum amount to prevent them from taking up a table for hours while slowly sipping one drink. It covers their cost of running the place, paying the staff, keeping the lights on. . . so how is this any different? If you like the store, then you should be willing to pay for the privileged of shopping, right?
It’s an intriguing idea. Suppose Best Buy did this. Instead of the typical stores they have now, they strip out the merchandise and set up comfortable couches where you can sit and try an iPad for as long as you like or watch DVD trailers on a big screen TV. Would you pay $5 for that experience? What if they gave you a $5 off any Best Buy online purchase in return? Set up a coffee bar, have a play area for the kids; this could work.
Look at the beauty bar stores such as Sephora. Think they could get away with charging a nominal fee to come in and try all of the make-up options? What if a clothing store gives the services of a personal stylist if you pay a couple of bucks upfront?
What do you think? Is there any circumstance where you would be willing to pay to browse? If so, what would be your dollar limit?
I think, if we can turn shopping into entertainment, people will pay and that may be the only way to keep showrooming from destroying the small business.