Book-buying Faux Pas: Showrooming
If you're not familiar with the term, here's an example how "showrooming" works.
I was browsing around Best Buy the other day and came across Heroes (season 4), and even though I told my girlfriend, "It's better than season 2, but not even close to seasons 1 or 3," she insisted on wanting to see it anyway because she's got a secret crush on Hiro Nakamura. So I'm almost ready to fork over $14.99 (plus tax) when my thrifty side stops me. I pull out my phone, hop on Amazon, and come to find that I can get the same thing for $11.99 (new; comes with Super Shipper discount) and since I need to buy some other stuff anyway, I decided to pass for the time being. Ultimately, I left with nothing other than a redirected sense of consumerism.
That's basically what showrooming is: using the retail side to accumulate ideas for purchases, but giving your business to the cheaper alternative.
Now do I owe Best Buy my business simply because they reminded me of this particular gift idea? Or am I simply being a price-conscious consumer?
This is essentially the debate bookstores are having right now, namely the independent ones where every sale matters. Unlike at Best Buy, showrooming is an extremely frowned upon practice that drastically affects their bottom line. When done in excess, it could be the proverbial last straw that brings down their business.
According to a survey conducted in October by the Codex Group, 24% of people who said they had bought books from an online retailer in the last month also said they had seen the book in a brick-and-mortar bookstore first. To extrapolate: one out of four people that walk into an independent take their business elsewhere. Bookstore owners are frustrated by this, saying that customers are taking advantage of their careful selection, staff recommendations, and warm atmosphere.
So is it a question of ethics or obligation?
Obviously, the author in me wants you to support your local bookstore--no question. However, I can't fault anyone for wanting to save a buck when it's obvious the same product can be bought for less on Amazon compared to the retail point of sale. So to you, the reader, we pose this question: does your wallet or your loyalty weigh more in your decision-making process?
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