Elliott Bay Book Co. fights back against 'showrooming'

by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:


SEATTLE -  Tracy Taylor, the general manager at Elliott Bay Book Company, said "showrooming" has been a growing problem for a few years.

"In the industry we all started to notice that that's what was going on," she said.

Showrooming is when customers look at a products in-store and then buy it online.

Taylor said she's even seen customers purchase a book online while still inside the bookstore.

So Elliott Bay Book Co. took the unique step of posting four or five small signs around the store with the simple question, "Are you showrooming?" and a QR code.

Smartphone users can scan the code using a special app, which takes them to an article on showrooming.

Taylor said it's not intended as a guilt trip, just food for thought.

"They've bought those books somewhere else after using our knowledge," Taylor said. "That affects us, that affects the local economy, that puts people out of business."

KIRO 7 didn't spot anyone scanning the signs in two hours at the bookstore.

Customers pointed out that checking prices online has just become part of the culture.

"I'm on my phone all the time," Stacie Andersen said, "more often than I would like to admit. It's so easy to find better deals elsewhere."

In December, the latest price-checking app came out boasting about being "Your mobile showrooming assistant." It allows customers to scan barcodes of items in stores and compare prices at different online retailers, including Amazon.com

Companies like Best Buy are fighting back, offering price-matching in-store and customer service improvements.

Andersen said for her, it's a case-by-case basis that comes down to price, product, and who she wants to have her dollar.