$5 for "just looking"

A misguided attempt to stop people using stores as showrooms.

If you're a high street retailer, it's pretty irritating when you've spent time and effort bringing people into your shop, giving them the sales patter, and closing the deal, only to have them walk out and buy it on the internet. But there's not much you can do about it. Unless you're this food store in Brisbane, who has started charging people $5 for "just looking" (to be deducted when you buy something):

The store management writes:

There has been high volume of people who use this store as a reference and then purchase goods elsewhere. These people are unaware our prices are almost the same as the other stores plus we have products simply not available anywhere else. This policy is line with many other clothing, shoe and electronic stores who are also facing the same issue.

But this policy has not gone down well anywhere.

"If customers aren’t buying, the seller needs to figure out why and adapt accordingly," writes Chris Morran at The Consumerist. "If this store’s prices are truly the best, then maybe it should be offering a price-match guarantee. If it truly offers products that aren’t available elsewhere, then how are these showrooming shoppers buying these items from someone else?"

"It has to be the most misguided strategy we've seen for dealing with showrooming," writes Daily Finance's Matt Brownell "The goal of any retailer should be to impress customers with competitive pricing and great customer service — not treat their customers with suspicion and hostility from the moment they walk in the door."

Photograph: Getty Images
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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.