Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What goes around comes around

I heard just yesterday that a store in Australia will soon institute a $5 "cover charge" to come in and look around.  They say they are trying to discourage people from coming in and trying out whatever it is they sell, then going home and ordering it online.  (If you do buy from them the retailer credits back to you your $5 cover charge.)

Interesting.  I can imagine their frustration with people like ME who look locally, but often buy online.  Not always though....I'll buy locally if the difference is just a few bucks, but for 30% or 40% difference, it's Amazon here I come!

But here's why I don't feel guilty about doing that: The big stores that I shun to order online are generally the same big national stores that blew into town 10-20 years ago and put all the local mom-and-pop stores out of business.  Seems to me they're now getting a taste of their own medicine.  To me this is just retail evolution.

Home Depot didn't shed any tears when they put Plaza Hardware out of business.  Nor did Best Buy show any remorse when they pretty much destroyed Hollingshed's Appliance.  Same with Walgreen's and CVS as they shuttered Payne's Drug Store.  And who killed Larry's Shoes, and do I have to say anything at all about all those little guys Walmart squashed?

Some things I won't buy online or from a catalogue.  Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware both send me a very nice catalogue several times a year full of their new offerings.  I've found their furniture to be of commendable quality, but how do you buy a chair, for example, without sitting on it first?  I don't care what it looks like if it doesn't pass my butt test.

Shoes....I've found that even within the same brand line, shoes can feel different.  I want to try them on in a store and see if a particular style is all-day comfortable.  If so, then it's time to check Zappos, may the best cut-throat mega-retailer win.

And now a plug (unfortunately uncompensated) for my all-time favorite online retailer, LL Bean.  I've just replenished through them my summer wardrobe....3 pair of chino shorts, 3 very nice polo shirts, and 5 (various colored) t-shirts.  And if something is wrong, they make it right, no arguments.  Can't beat that!

If I was a big brick-and-mortar retailer, I'd be scared.  VERY scared.



  1. That's the same thing I wrote about over a year ago on my old blog about Barnes and Noble. (

    I guess some bookstores are thinking of doing a cover charge thing too. Which is a good way to kill any foot traffic. Of course with a store like B&N what if you don't even want to look for books? What if you just want to get a latte from the Starbucks? I buy locally if the thing I want I'm in a hurry to get. Otherwise it is usually cheaper on Amazon and as you say most of those stores didn't care about displacing the Mom and Pop shops.

    1. Oh yeah a case recently when it was better to buy local was I found a couple of action figures at my local Kroger for $10 apiece whereas Amazon was $15 or more apiece. So sometimes you can get a better deal at a brick-and-mortar store.

  2. I think that store in Aussieland will find they made a large mistake. Your point about the bully stores is welll taken...cry me a river.

    I won't buy condoms on-line...what if they don't fit?

  3. I'm also a LL Bean devotee. Man, do they have the customer service thing right. I'd surely like to give locals the business, but not always possible. B & N deserves to lose my business. That became true at the point where they took out all the comfortable armchairs and filled the space with lego kits.

  4. Funny you should post about this today! I somewhat agree with you, but I don't think "brick and mortar" is going away:

    Today was the second time I took off from work to be home for delivery of a TV from Amazon. The first one delivered 10 days ago had a cracked screen (we noticed the crack once we unpacked it the day after it had been delivered). So today, the replacement TV was delivered and the freight company was instructed to unpack it, plug it in, and turn it on. Oooops...the display on the screen had a funky band in it. I refused delivery and now BOTH televisions are on their way back to Amazon.

    Quick trip to Walmart (sigh) and I brought home my husband's birthday present (three weeks after his birthday). Amazon gave us a refund since they no longer had that particular TV in stock.

    I still like Amazon and I'll keep ordering from them, but sometimes you just need a brick and mortar place.

  5. All that's going to happen is that shop will go out of business. Australian's don't like it when you insinuate that they're not being "fair" when it comes to money, that's why bargaining is frowned upon here.