Charging a browsing fee?
Setting the tax and duty de minimus too high for private importations has been extremely detrimental to Australian retailers.
This issue has become so big so that a couple of heavyweights in the Australian retail world Gerry Harvey and Solomon Lew have come out swinging in defence of Australian retailers. Their involvement clearly demonstrates that this is an issue that goes beyond the book industry but is hitting other areas of retail.
This situation is compounded for the book industry because of the discounted print post rates offered by Royal Mail are having a huge affect on Australian book retailers.
And once again, I really question why Royal Mail offers a discounted International Print Post rate for airmail. Australia only offers it for surface mail over 5kg and the US only offers one Mbag service for parcels weighing 11lbs or more. Actually you can ship less than the 11lbs but you still have to pay for 11lbs. But either way these services do not have a significant affect on domestic booksellers in other countries.
Isn’t it time Royal Mail who, incidently are losing millions of pounds, scrapped this colonial era subsidy ?
Now what this issue brings me to is a current marketing campaign in Australia by a well known online marketplace suggesting that people take themselves to the beautiful new shopping complexes with free parking and airconditioning (really nice on a sultry 32C day). Browse the bookstore, the clothing store, the shoe store read a few pages, try on the clothes and shoes (don’t worry about creasing the pages, leaving makeup stains or scuff marks) and then buy the same thing from an overseas supplier for less.
Now apart from issues about consumption taxes and level playing fields and supporting the local economy this seems to me to be both parasitical and unethical.
People have to realise that these malls cost millions to build and maintain and the rents are subsequently very high and the minimum wage in Australia is $16 per hour (plus benefits) and retailers have to factor those expenses in when setting their selling prices. Plus deciding to purchase stock involves risk, that has to be factored into the retail price. It gets damaged, spoiled, stolen and can end up as stale as last week’s cut lunch that you just found at the back of your drawer.
This article discussed the option one retailer took to stop customers from abusing the service they offered. My BIL took similar steps when his goodwill was abused. He used to offer free pool testing til one delightful ‘customer’ got the free testing then bought her pool chemicals elsewhere then came back for ANOTHER free test. At which point he decided enough was enough and introduced a voucher system..
Now I love browsers (mostly) but I have read articles about legendary second hand book shop owners who don’t allow customers to browse or even enter their stores but require them to name the book and then, if they have it go and fetch it for them.
And there are a couple of shops who charge a browsing fee redeemable on on purchase and I can tell you there have been days when I have felt like charging one of those, in particular one customer who keep me here for 20 minutes after closing finding books for her to finally announce that she was leaving as her bus was due. She had been killing time with no intention of spending and in the meantime my children (and my hot dinner) were kept waiting.
Now anyone that wants to come in when I am packing up gets a friendly suggestion, “sure you can come while I pack up in but you have to buy something!”
This is not about B&M versus online -we are online! Do you really want to drive your domestic retailers out of business? I can guarantee as soon as they go the international prices will rise.
I don’t know the solution to discouraging people from taking advantage of domestic retailers but I do think that the tax and duty threshold is set way too high and that where countries like the UK are subsidising international airmail it is time they stopped.
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