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Old 04-11-11, 09:43 PM   #1
BengeBoy 
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Would you pay a "fit fee" to try on bike stuff in a store?

Heard this story on NPR this morning about clothing stores who have decided to start charging a "fit fee" from customers who come into the store to try things on, only to purchase the items later online.

Reminded me of the many online discussions about buying in bike shops (should you support your LBS, buy online, or a do a little of both? is it OK to 'try it on' in a store and then hurry home to order what you want online?).

Here's the story:

http://www.npr.org/2011/04/11/135306...rd-in-business

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Old 04-11-11, 09:56 PM   #2
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Heck, my wife just orders things online, tries them on and sends them back if they don't fit. Several online stores allow her to return for free. No need to go to the store to try things on.

And, no, I wouldn't pay a fee to try something on. But, I figure if I am at a store, and it fits, I will just buy it there and not online.
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Old 04-11-11, 10:08 PM   #3
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Most businesses support the free enterprise system and the open, competitive marketplace, at least until someone uses the system to save money and cut into retail profits. As a so-called "consumer"--an insulting term to refer to human beings by--I use the system to save money, just as a retailer uses the system to make it. So no, i would never pay a "fitting fee." If the retailer wants me to buy the product, he needs to offer it at a competitive price. All the people I know who run bike shops and outdoor gear shops make plenty of money, judging by the cars they drive, the houses they live in, and the trips they take. They can lower their prices a little to compete a little more with online retailers, but , of course, most won't because they want to maximize profits. It's all part of our economic system.
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Old 04-12-11, 12:05 AM   #4
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Sounds like the perfect way for a business to go out of business.
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Old 04-12-11, 12:08 AM   #5
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All the people I know who run bike shops and outdoor gear shops make plenty of money, judging by the cars they drive, the houses they live in, and the trips they take. They can lower their prices a little to compete a little more with online retailers, but , of course, most won't because they want to maximize profits. It's all part of our economic system.
All the people I know who run bike shops pay a hefty rent for their space and are usually just making it. I buy my gear locally even if the price is a little higher because it's my way of supporting local businesses and the people they employ.
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Old 04-12-11, 12:35 AM   #6
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The article was dealt with in the Australian media last week. I haven't read the NPR story (I don't follow links from here, sorry) but the article in Australia drew a more interesting parallel with cycling by interviewing ski boot fitters.

Now, I haven't had any interest in skiing, but I am told by Macha, and it is confirmed in the article, that it can take up to two hours for a fitter to get a customer's boots right -- it's like moulding the customer's feet to each boot. The ski shops have twigged to the internet crowd's motives, and now charge $50 a fitting, deductible from the purchase price.

I don't do much LBS shopping, but I do have to say the parallel between ski boot fit and bike fitting (even basic) does stand up. Mind you, that is if the LBS actually does have someone who is competent as a bike fitter and can guide a customer through this process without going to an all-out bike fit process.
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Old 04-12-11, 01:01 AM   #7
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Actually this kind of thing has been done in a variety of industries for many years. Electronics repair shops charge an estimate fee deductible if you have them do the repair. There are others, generally where there is significant time or money involved.


added: I don't mind paying a fee for design, fitting, estimating, etc if I'm getting a significant service and if it is deducted from the purchase price. On the other hand if it is merely a matter of checking sizes, maybe getting an initial fit for a bike so I can properly test it; I'm out the door.

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Old 04-12-11, 01:02 AM   #8
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I haven't read the NPR story (I don't follow links from here, sorry) but the article in Australia drew a more interesting parallel with cycling by interviewing ski boot fitters.
Here's the complete transcript of the NPR story -- it does refer specifically to ski boots:

" Some people are apparently going shopping and trying on shoes or clothes to find the perfect fit. And then instead of buying them in the store, they go home and buy them online at a better price, and also avoid the sales tax.

"Retailers in Australia are fed up with this, and they're charging a fitting fee, according to a newspaper there. One store charges $50 to try on ski boots. The fee is waived if customers buy the boots in the store. The head of one retailer says so many customers are trying on designer jeans and then buying them online that his sales have fallen by 25 percent. "
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Old 04-12-11, 01:06 AM   #9
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I don't buy things on line, my wife rarely does, I like going to my LBS and chatting directly when needed. No I would not pay a fit fee if there were another shop I could go to where the fee was not in place. I'm kind of old school I guess
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Old 04-12-11, 03:15 AM   #10
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In a word, No.
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Old 04-12-11, 03:17 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
Here's the complete transcript of the NPR story -- it does refer specifically to ski boots:

" Some people are apparently going shopping and trying on shoes or clothes to find the perfect fit. And then instead of buying them in the store, they go home and buy them online at a better price, and also avoid the sales tax.

"Retailers in Australia are fed up with this, and they're charging a fitting fee, according to a newspaper there. One store charges $50 to try on ski boots. The fee is waived if customers buy the boots in the store. The head of one retailer says so many customers are trying on designer jeans and then buying them online that his sales have fallen by 25 percent. "
The sales tax issue is one that the retailers are using to lobby the Australian Government to alter policy on imported goods.

Currently, people who buy itms overseas for a price less than $1,000 can import them directly with no customs duty or the 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST). If I, for example, source bike parts from Chain Reaction Cycles or Wiggle, I also escape having to pay the Valued Added Tax (VAT) that would apply if I were purchasing within the European Union, so it's a double-dip bonus, if you like.

The retailers argue that they are at a distinct disadvantage because they have to pay GST and a certain level of Customs duty on the container load of stuff they import. They say the Government should apply the requirement for duty and GST equally to those importing goods under a declared value of $1,000.

The Government counters by saying that the cost of recovering the GST and duty on goods under $1000 would in fact be greater than the revenue generated. I know from personal experience that this is probably the case -- I imported a carbon frame from CRC with a value of $1400 and the time and effort for the officials to contact me, assess the tax, etc, etc, would have been worth about the $150 I paid extra. For a $500 item, the $50 wouldn't be worth it.

The argument is an interesting one. One of Australia's iconic furniture, whitegoods and computer retailers, Gerry Harvey, became the face of the retail industry's campaign just before Christmas to attack internet shopping. He called buying on the internet "unAustralian". Well, didn't that go down a treat... Harvey -- a billionaire -- very quickly gave up his figurehead role in the campaign because his own business started losing customers. It was odd for him to be there in the first place because his main business fare -- furniture and whitegoods -- aren't overseas internet shopping items.

What the guy importing the designer jeans does not say is that the import duty and GST is minimal when his stuff is landed. Let's say he buys the jeans at $20 a pair, and imports $800,000 worth in one shipment. Machka and I figured he would pay the $2 a pair of jeans (plus a duty of around $1), then on-sell them in his shops for $200 a pair. The final price attracts a 10% GST which would be $18.18 (the final retail price includes GST here -- it is illegal to post a price then add the tax at the checkout). The GST he paid on importing the jeans also is neutralised -- it effectively is deducted from the $18.18 paid by the customer.

The thing is, the GST and duty is a small amount of the final price of the jeans... and this is where the rub comes for the consumer. An individual still can buy on the internet from, say, a US retailer and get the jeans into Australia including GST and duty, for half the price the jeans guy is asking! The differential in price is because of his mark-up on the jeans, not the tax regimen.

The claimed drop in the guy's turnover also likely has other factors at play. The retail market generally was soft prior to Christmas, and even post-Christmas sales were not as intense as in previous years. We were, after all, following on from the global economic downturn, increasing interest rates, and an overheated real estate and mortgage market and a very tight rental market in the cities that meant people were seriously tightening their belts financially.

There have been several analyses done of internet shopping compared with the overall retail market, and depending on whichever one is being reported, it still forms only 3 to 10% of total turnover. And it seems the majority of internet sales are within Australia.

Some major retailers are seeking a way around the issue by establishing warehouses in Asia, a web ordering site in Australia and sending items for individual customers through the exempted system. However, the Australian Tax Office is on to this, and has threatened to charge those retailers with offences related to tax evasion.

It really is a complex issue, and regular users of overseas internet ordering are waiting on the sidelines with bated breath to see what the outcome is.
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Old 04-12-11, 03:25 AM   #12
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All the people I know who run bike shops pay a hefty rent for their space and are usually just making it. I buy my gear locally even if the price is a little higher because it's my way of supporting local businesses and the people they employ.
I can't help poor business decisions that put retailers into places that require a hefty rent. Another bleating non-bicycle retailer in the Australian debate recounted how he had to mark up his goods so much because he was paying $150,000 rent a year to be in a prime site.

One of the real benefits of internet businesses for me is the decentralisation of commerce. Rents are cheap outside the big cities, and big warehouses can be built cost-effectively. It's already happening with bricks-and-mortar businesses who can see the sense of reducing their rental overheads.

For country residents like us, internet buying really is no different to using the old paper catalogue to do our ordering. The only thing is, it takes a little longer for the stuff to get to us.

Provided an on-line business has a good return policy on garments and bikes that don't fit -- and the bike places we deal with overseas such as CRC, Wiggle and Torpedo7 do -- we really have no need to go to a bike shop for a test fit.

Apologies for the consecutive posts, but it separates the subject matter out a bit in this case.
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Old 04-12-11, 04:48 AM   #13
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Several LBS owners (here in Michigan) have told me that it's necessary to own their buildings to make the business work, speaking of business decisions.
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Old 04-12-11, 04:54 AM   #14
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I have and would again pay for a bike fitting, as a service and as a source of information. One does need to pay for information. By now I'm learning pretty well what contact points work for me, and how to adjust to discomforts, so it's been part of a learning experience.

But to try on a jacket? No way! If I find a bike jacket that fits, that I like, and that fits the purpose, I buy it there. Who knows where I'll find the right item if I wait? But if I don't buy it it's not because I can save $5 online, it's because it was not suitable in some way.

If I have to deal with some sort of browsing pressure while in a store, even a bike shop, it ceases to be a pleasant experience, and I spend my time and $$ elsewhere.
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Old 04-12-11, 05:26 AM   #15
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I have no problem with buying online (in fact that's where I do most of my buying). But I also believe in buying where you shop (or at least being open to buy there), so the only way I'm going to try some clothes on (or ask an lbs for advice about something) is if I'm willing and ready to buy something from them. To do otherwise smacks of dishonesty (in my mind at least, using their services - trying something on or getting their advice - is entering into an unspoken agreement that you are willing to consider buying from them - not that you have to if it doesn't fit or their advice is bad, but you are considering it) and in another thread someone used a phrase I like "I won't steal their time". So no I wouldn't pay to try stuff on, but I don't put myself in a situation where I'm the "customer" (and I use that phrase lightly) that would cause the shop owner to feel he needed such a fee. When I buy stuff online, I accept that the cheaper price comes with the inability to try stuff on and the inconvenience of potentially having to ship it back if it doesn't fit.
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Old 04-12-11, 06:03 AM   #16
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The main thing about ordering on line is the huge selection. You'd never know the item existed, or you wouldn't be able to find it locally if you did. Especially with specialty items like cycling gear. So, on occasion, I've ordered a number of different sizes of an item knowing I'd send back the ones that didn't fit the best. It's pretty easy to send stuff back using the USPS website to print postage paid shipping labels, or opening an account at UPS or FedEx and doing the same. Lot's quicker, easier, and cheaper than making a 50+ mile round trip to a store, which you better call first to ensure the got the item, and in your size.
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Old 04-12-11, 06:14 AM   #17
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All the people I know who run bike shops and outdoor gear shops make plenty of money, judging by the cars they drive, the houses they live in, and the trips they take.
I think most of the bike store owners around here will be thinking of moving near you ...
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Old 04-12-11, 06:28 AM   #18
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doubtful but it depends on the fee. if it's 50 cents maybe but I just don't see the logistics working. also i really don't see retailers keeping customers if they charge at the fitting room.

on the topic - I shop at REI quite a bit. I've bought from the store and online-shipped to the store. this spring I tried on some large trishorts but they were too small and they didn't carry the XL. even REI online didn't carry the XL. I resorted to buying it from another online vendor and have been very happy with the shorts.

I felt bad but not too bad cuz the manufacturer makes an XL but REI decided not to. their loss
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Old 04-12-11, 06:50 AM   #19
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I don't think I would pay a fee for simply trying on something in a store. That is part of the justification for paying a little more at a physical store than online.
I have no qualms about buying online when the pricing or selection difference is big, but people who go into a store expecting workers to expend time and effort helping them find the right product in the right size while fully intending to take that information with them to buy cheaper online are scum (imho).
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Old 04-12-11, 08:17 AM   #20
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No, I will not pay a fee per se. However, if I required an expert to help figure out fit for a piece of sporting equipment that used a significant amount of time from a salesperson or technician than yes. In that case, I would probably buy it at the store. Surefoot ski boots is a great example. They provide custom orthotics, custom foam fit, boot heaters and shells. The charge full price and have great retail margins albeit seasonal. I could see them charging a fitting fee if somehow a customer could take their work and duplicate it on line.

Retail is changing but it still gets down to the value proposition offered to customers - unique products with great service = high margins and satisfied customers. However, it will get much more competitive than less. For example, I have an App on the iPhone 4 where I can take a picture of a barcode on an item at a store and it will find the merchandise in other local stores and on the internet with prices. The gloves are off and retailers will have to adjust.

With respect to bike shops, we purchase most of our clothes via our club order which is in large quantity. The same is true for shoes, helmets, wheels, tires, lights and many others. We have a deal with a bike shop on discounts. This is typical for most larger clubs. Voler brings their clothes to club meetings and we get to try them on before ordering.
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Old 04-12-11, 08:28 AM   #21
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Retail is changing but it still gets down to the value proposition offered to customers - unique products with great service = high margins and satisfied customers. However, it will get much more competitive than less. For example, I have an App on the iPhone 4 where I can take a picture of a barcode on an item at a store and it will find the merchandise in other local stores and on the internet with prices. The gloves are off and retailers will have to adjust.
Somewhere, one has to factor in one's time, fuel and other costs if one is driving from store to store trying to find the best deal, etc.

As an analogy, we have a toll road 1/2 mile from our home. Expensive tolls - it costs a couple of dollars to get just a few miles to the interstate, but it is fast, close and convenient. I have neighbors who will go several miles out of their way to avoid the tolls, using more gas and more tire wear, etc., and go on a local road with at least 10 stoplights and spending a lot more time, simply to avoid the $2.00.

Which is cheapest? Considering time and other factors, for me, the toll road is cheaper.
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Old 04-12-11, 08:33 AM   #22
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I have a good relationship with my LBS so I tend to buy most bike things I need there. They often lend me items to demo for extend periods of time if need be.
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Old 04-12-11, 08:48 AM   #23
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Between myself and 3 sons, we have bought several bikes at our LBS. My last two bikes that I bougtht were bents. Since the owner knows me well, he gave me really nice discounts on these bents. While I have bought some things on line, I feel some loyality to the LBS, and buy far more there. But "fit fees" seems to me to be out of line. Fitting locally and buying on line should really come out about even. When you buy on line there is generally shipping fees. So unless the LBS is pricing their stuff unreasonable the price should come out about the same.
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Old 04-12-11, 09:09 AM   #24
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No, I will not pay a fee per se. However, if I required an expert to help figure out fit for a piece of sporting equipment that used a significant amount of time from a salesperson or technician than yes. In that case, I would ------- buy it at the store.
+1 with the "probably" taken out.
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Old 04-12-11, 09:45 AM   #25
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No way would I even consider paying a "Fit Fee"!

With the cost of gasoline dealing it's death blow to a budget already raped by health care and education costs, I would rather the store pay me a "Patron's Fee" just for walking in!!!
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