Merchants suffer when customers use their stores to check out products, sometimes taking pictures of them, and then buying them online, says Bob Greene
By Bob Greene
In a bookstore, I saw a woman taking photograph after photograph of newly released titles that were arranged on a shelf. She was using her phone to take the pictures.
I didn’t understand. Why would anyone want to take pictures of books?
Then, at a restaurant, waiting for a table, I heard two men, also waiting, talking. One said he had just ended a frustrating day at the store he owned.
“Do they think I’m a showroom?” he said.
He mentioned people who had come into his shop that day, had looked at the merchandise, had taken notes — and then had left.
“Do they think I don’t know what they’re doing?” he said.
It is a relatively new phenomenon. Among retail merchants — owners of stores both small and large — it has a name:
No one showrooms by choice.
And it represents a potential sea change in American life. Its implications are vast.
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By JULIE BOSMAN
Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times
Bookstore owners everywhere have a lurking suspicion: that the customers who type into their smartphones while browsing in the store, and then leave, are planning to buy the books online later — probably at a steep discount from the bookstores’ archrival, Amazon.com.
Now a survey has confirmed that the practice, known among booksellers as showrooming, is not a figment of their imaginations. According to the survey, conducted in October by the Codex Group, a book market research and consulting company, 24 percent 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.
Thirty-nine percent of people who bought books from Amazon in the same period said they had looked at the book in a bookstore before buying it from Amazon, the survey said.
As frustrated bookstore owners see it, the practice allows customers to take advantage of the stores’ careful selection of books, staff recommendations and warm atmosphere — all while spending their money elsewhere.