I’m in the market for a new office chair. I’m planning on investing in a good one. After all, you only get one back, and I want to take care of mine. Next to my bed, the office chair is where I spend most of my time.
I’ve done research and read a bunch of online reviews. However, like most significant purchases, I want to test drive some chairs to find the one that best fits my largish frame.
Here-in lies the problem.
Office chairs are commodities. You’ll always be able to buy the exact chair from an online store for a cheaper price than from a retail store. On a purchase like this, the difference could easily be a couple hundred bucks. This is simply down to the economics of virtual stores compared to bricks-and-mortar ones.
The standard wisdom here is to go to a real store, sit in a bunch of chairs and then go home and buy one online for less money.
Zero Intent to Buy
That behaviour–feigning interest at a bricks and mortar store while having zero intent to buy–feels unethical to me. What right do I have to take up the store staff’s time when they have no chance of making a sale?
I’ve discussed this with a few people, and the best counter-argument I’ve heard is that if I never go into, say, the Herman Miller store downtown, then the staff there have absolutely no chance of selling me a chair. To quote my friend’s shopping koan, “you can’t go back to the store if you never go in the first time”. The store also can’t benefit from any positive word-of-mouth I might spread if I have a good experience there.
I should say that there’s a difference between my proposed test-drive, and the passive act of browsing. In that case, you may just be killing time, or otherwise just curious about what a store offers. Me, I’m walking through the door with plans to buy somewhere else.
I’m no saint, obviously, so this is more a theoretical question than a practical one. What do you think?