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How Showrooming Saved Me Over $150 on a Treadmill

How many times have you spotted a great deal online only to be disappointed or surprised by what you got? It's pretty common to open a package only to discover that the beautiful deep red color you thought you ordered is actually tomato orange, or the construction is flimsier than advertised, or the size is much larger or smaller than anticipated. Ugh!

Avoid disappointment with showrooming

Disappointed with your online purchase? Avoid heartache with showrooming.

I've been in the market for a treadmill for several months. I've read reviews on dozens of models in my price range, figured out that the top six treadmill brands are actually only made by two companies, and finally zeroed in on an affordable model with good reviews that met all of my criteria. The only thing left to do was to take the plunge and buy it. But even on the low end, a new treadmill is not so cheap and that's a lot of money to throw at something that's almost guaranteed to disappoint you.

Unless you showroom it first.

What is showrooming?

Showrooming is a relatively newish online shopping phenomenon in which shoppers go to a brick and mortar store to check out an item they want to buy, then go home and buy it online instead - presumably at a discount. Retailers hate it, and salespeople who work on commission really hate it, but when you're buying an item with a high degree of risk - like my treadmill - it can save you a world of heartache and a boatload of money all at the same time.

Here's my story. The Nordictrack T5.5 treadmill allegedly retails at $899.99, but treadmills are pretty much always on sale at Sears and I've never seen this particular model listed at anything more than $579. On the day after Christmas, the price was slashed to $479, and that was worth pouncing on. But I wasn't going to buy it without checking it out in person first, so I hit my local Sears for a test drive.

The price tag hanging from the handle bars was $579, a full $100 more than I'd seen online just a few hours earlier. When I asked the salesperson about the difference, she was quick to point out that $479 was a doorbuster price that had expired earlier in the day. I was disappointed, but walked away knowing that this was indeed the right treadmill for me.

Back at home, I looked it up online one more time. It was still listed at $479 on the Sears website.

I bought it immediately. In-store pickup was free, I applied a Sears promo code for $35 off $300, and paid with my Sears Mastercard for an additional 5% off. Final result? Buying online and opting for free in-store pickup saved me $156 over what I would have paid in the store, and I am confident about my purchase since I was able to try it out before buying. 

Showrooming isn't just for big purchases. There have been countless times that I've spotted something I like in a store and immediately realize that I can get it cheaper online. There was one instance in which I hit up Macy's to try on a pair of Steve Madden shoes and then turned right around and ordered them online from Zappos. Macy's didn't carry the color I wanted - and I knew that before walking in the door to try them on.

Want to kick your showrooming up a notch? Take your mobile device with you. Stand next to the item you want to buy while comparing the online and in-store prices. Place your online order, apply a coupon code to get it cheaper than what the price tag shows, select in-store pickup to avoid shipping or delivery charges. Walk across the street for a cup of coffee and relax while waiting for the text or email notifying you that the object of your desire is ready for pick up.

Have you ever used showrooming to save money and get exactly what you wanted? Tell us your story in the comments!

Photo credit: bread and roses via Flickr. Some rights reserved


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About the Author: Rebecca Lehmann

Rebecca writes and manages blog and site content for Brad's Deals. She loves finding online deals on shoes, knitting supplies, and anything that lets her spoil her nieces rotten.

39 Responses to “How Showrooming Saved Me Over $150 on a Treadmill”

  1. Sara Johnson says:

    Does it strike you there’s a bit of dishonesty here? Using the brick-and-mortar store’s facilities for something you have no intention of buying from them. The higher price isn’t necessarily greed on their part. It goes toward expenses like payroll, rent, utilities, maintenance, shoplifting, and theft of services. Your money-saving scheme may well fit into the latter.
    If you feel you’re not being dishonest try this on your next excursion: Right up front tell the salesperson what you’re up to and that there will be no purchase. Let us know what happens.
    Perhaps you’ll do another blog on moral decay in this country including the many ways to lie in order to get what you want.
    Have a nice day.

    • I don’t think there’s anything dishonest about telling the salesperson that you’re researching your options and are not ready to make a purchasing decision today. That’s the whole point of showrooming – figuring out if you actually want to buy something. In fact, with the treadmill example, that’s exactly what happened. Many stores will also honor the online price if you can show it to them. It’s no different than department stores that offer to match competitors’ prices, putting the burden of proof on the consumer who must do research to find the lowest price. If the price is legitimately lower online, then why shouldn’t you buy it online instead? The merchant is counting on the consumer not doing the research to know better. Do the stores hate it when you showroom? Yes, they do. But there is nothing wrong with being a savvy consumer.

      • Cynthia james says:

        I totally agree with you. I am really shocked that anyone would even compare this to theft or being dishonest. How can it be wrong to research and act upon your options. Thanks for the tips.

        • Beth says:

          I showroom shop all the time. If consumers did not visit the stores then they would shut down. Jobs are secured when shoppers show up whether there is a sale at every visit or not. As far as Sears goes, I recently went in the store to showroom for a Dyson animal vacuum. I was prepared to only try it out and pick the brain of the very educated salesman. I told him that I was going to purchase online since their listed price was much higher than I had previously researched. He did me 1 better by going on the store computer and found me the vacuum on a competitors website for $109 less. He then matched the price and I bought it right then. So it was a win for both of us. So don;t be afraid to bargain even in the big box stores.

          • dave says:

            do you not understand how businesses work? there absolutely must be sales in order to secure jobs.

          • dave says:

            my bad, i misread. apologies. you are correct in saying there doesn’t have to be a sale at every visit, but certainly there must be sales (which i am sure you are well aware; again, sorry). i would suggest that in exchange for the customer experience provided by brick and mortar stores, we can offer our regular patronage (which may be what you were implying).

      • dave says:

        they hate it because they’ve spent the money staging products for you to try and paying people to tell you all about them and help you make a decision, among many other (costly) things that improve the customer experience. i guess we should stop tipping waiters/waitresses since we are not technically obligated.

        we should be well-informed, savvy consumers. but there is a fine line between responsible consumption and unethical consumption. if everyone did what you suggest, brick and mortar stores would shut down and you would not have the opportunity to “showroom.”

        this is not to say i disagree with all of your points. i think your first (treadmill) example was a reasonable application of “showrooming.” going into macy’s and trying on shoes that you knew you weren’t going to buy? dishonest, but i can see how one might not think so. i would suggest that in those situations, it might be appropriate to patronize the establishment more often in exchange for their “free” services (which, admittedly, i can’t be certain wasn’t the case).

  2. Sara Johnson says:

    Let me get this straight: It’s OK to deceive the salesperson with a half truth, then use their time knowing you won’t be buying anything. Meanwhile genuine customers go wanting, sales staff is deprived of commisions (if any), the store misses potential sales, and perhaps jobs are threatened if there are quotas to meet.
    Think it through, lady, that’s how the world works. It’s wrong and you know it.
    You rationalize using people who are acting in good faith as long as it saves you a few $$$. That excuses lies and deception? And then you use Brad’s Deals ( which has always seemed on the up and up) to encourage others to follow suit?
    It may be legal but in my book its morally wrong. ‘Savvy’ and dishonest are not the same thing.
    Think about it.

    • Sharon says:

      I have been doing this for a few years now. This is how I get my children their presents. I have told the saleperson why I’m in the store, they have shown me what I was looking for and told me to let them know if there is anything else I need help with. They didn’t act like I was stealing from them or the store. To me, this is no different from going to one store to another finding the cheaper price. May times the stores have honored the online price or offered a store-only package. I don’t think it has anything to do with morals or lack of.

      I have worked retail for years and can remember customers coming in and the wife “killing time” with me in the shoe department while her husband doing the shopping for the tools that had them make the trip to the store. I never felt this woman was taking advantage of me, nor was she deceiving or stealing. I’m there to help and most people will remember that and will come back when they do want to spend money.

  3. Travis says:

    Some of you are being overly sensitive. She still bought the treadmill from Sears so they got there money. She just made a smart decision and saved herself some money. If you were given the option to buy the same treadmill for two different prices from the same store would you pay the higher price? Hmmm…..didn’t think so.

    • Sara Johnson says:

      Travis, you are right. The story has a happy ending: she got the treadmill, saved $$$, and Sears got their money — this time.
      The point I am trying to make is one of moral right and wrong. Using people and facilities under false pretenses is morally wrong. Saving $$$ doesn’t make it right whether or not you buy from that store.
      Moral decay is rampant in this country. Whatever you can get away with is acceptable. Admirable if you save or gain $$$. All the way from ‘white lies’ dealing with a salesperson to Madoff who built a financial empire by deceiving people. Does the mega millions he pocketed make it morally OK? We all know it wasn’t legal. Was it moral?
      Have a nice day.

      • Jason says:

        Is it also right for Sears to rape their customers of their hard earned money. They pay pennies on the dollars for electronics. Do you actually know how much they make off of electronics? Best Buy is another one. They make a fortune off of electronics. How could they afford to employ all of those people to just stand around and wait for your purchases and they do not make commision. If sears posted the coupons should you not use them, and if they advertised a different price online than in the store that is wrong. I think it is great what she did. Keep up the good work.

        • dave says:

          wrong. in a lot of cases they lose money on big ticket items. they count on the sale of additional attachments to turn a profit. they employ those people to sell those attachments. if they were making a fortune, they wouldn’t be closing stores left and right.

  4. Bocaboy says:

    I “showroom” shop all the time. I was recently in the market for a new Samsung Smart TV and had been tracking prices on-line and in-store. I saw the item at Sears and when the salesperson approached me, I was honest with him about the fact that it was available on Amazon for the same price, but without sales tax and free shipping. He immediately talked to his manager and they matched the price.

    It gets even better. As I was picking up my TV, I once again ran into my salesperson. He told me that the TV I had purchased was going down an additional $200 next week. He advised me to come back to the store with my receipt, and Sears would honor the price drop by refunding me the money. I did and they did!

    The lesson here is that retailers know about showroom shopping, and in many cases, they’re willing to match the price in order to make the sale. Be sure and be honest and tell them you found the item on so-and-so website and if they can match the deal, you’ll buy from them. It doesn’t always work, but from my experience, sometimes the store is anxious for a sale–especially on big-ticket items–and you stand a good chance of getting it.

  5. Jeff Maynard says:

    I love it when people are very opinionated when someone else gets a bargain. It may be because of jealousy, who knows. But the truth is that behind closed doors they’ll definitely do the same.

    With that said, let me say my story:
    A local jewler had a watch for sale on their Facebook page for $139 and by the time I stopped by to try it on it was sold.
    So, I did a search on amazon for that make and model and they had it for $85! I bought it.
    The day it arrived I went to my local Macy’s and picked up the same watch ($165) just to compare its authenticity. At the same time I asked to price match and they refused.

    I opened them both up simultaneously and sure enough they were both manufacturer packaged and sealed.
    I kept the amazon unit and brought the Macy’s unit back for refund.

    There’s nothing wrong with saving a buck.
    “Business is business; leave your emotions at home”.

    • Sara Johnson says:

      Good for you, Jeff. You saved money without engaging in deception and/or lies. You were fair and square with Macy’s, giving them a chance to price match and make the sale.
      I believe you did the right thing and I wish to offer my congratulations.

      BTW; thanks for your opinion regarding motive, although jealousy seems farfetched.
      And thanks,too, for sharing your insight as to what will “definitely” happen behind closed doors. Although stated as an absolute this is surely another opinion.
      Have a nice day.

  6. Tad says:

    Sara Johnson, THANK YOU for recognizing the immorality of this practice and pointing it out!! I highly commend you for your honesty, integrity, and the guts to say so on a public forum!
    You are correct. This society has become so desensitized to moral corruption they don’t even recognize it anymore, but justify it, instead.
    I also agree that this practice is morally wrong. It is one thing to see an item at a lower price and decide to purchase it online. It is quite another to purposefully GO to a brick and mortar, use their time and resources that may be better spent by them on an actual paying customer, just to ‘try out’ a product to see if it meets your needs or wants. It essentially is stealing from the company. If you want to let them know about the online price, give them the opportunity to price match it, that’s a whole different thing. Should they choose to not match the price, that is their option to lose the sale. You make a good point that they have overhead that an online company may not. Their price may be higher as a result of that, but they purchase in bulk at discounted prices so they are taking money out of their own pockets by not matching the price.
    Rebecca went to the store with the intent of making a purchase that day, even though she said differently. That is the purpose of her ‘story’. She did all of this research, narrowed it down to the one she wanted, and then “hit my local Sears for a test drive”. The fact that she knew it was online for $479, walked into Sears, compared prices, and went back home to purchase it is proof that she was, indeed, “ready to make a purchasing decision today”…and did so. But she can still rationalize it by using the word ‘savvy’? Lies and deceit, even to herself. I’m sorry she can’t see that.
    What Bocaboy said is fine. He was honest enough to give them the chance to let him know about a product that would be on sale at a later date. It was at the store’s discretion to take less for the product by letting him know about the sale…everyone wins!
    Isn’t it funny how other people KNOW DEFINITELY what goes on behind closed doors? I’m thinking they must be talking about their own (which shows their true character). They surely have NO idea what goes on behind mine or yours!
    I am so thankful for people like you who not only recognize dishonesty but will take a stand against it! KUDOS!!

    • asher yotzar says:

      wow tad, that’s a beautiful repetition of what sara said.
      whats even better is that you were nice enough to take the time and actually type it out (in great length) rather than simply copy & paste.

      sara, what Jeff did is also dishonest and wrong. if you stand so strong with the retail stores and the salesman you shouldn’t allow any leeway what so ever. it seems like you agree what Jeff did is correct and you disagree about the “behind closed door”comment which is totally irrelevant to the topic.

      speaking of “behind closed doors”, the only ones arguing about that, again off topic, are Tad and Sara. maybe Tad is sweet enough to show that he agrees with sara so much to the point that he wants to go “behind closed doors” with her. even better, according to tad, Jeff definitely will NOT know about it.

      anyway people, as Jeff said “Business is business; leave your emotions at home”.

      • Tad says:

        Asher, I’m going to take your comments as a compliment, so thank you. (Yes, I get it.)
        As far as your ‘behind closed door’ statement, I find it rather distasteful
        (read: gutter-minded) since I’m a female and in no way implied what you are suggesting. Mine was a side comment, very ‘on topic’, and simply in support of, and for, the encouragement of Sara, which is why I addressed that comment to her. Jeff was the one who made the original off topic statement assuming what others would ‘definitely” do behind closed doors. My stance, and I believe Sara’s, is that he has no idea what either of us…or you…would do. It was a generalization that shows HIS character (or lack of it).
        That particular argument (?) is about integrity. As the old saying goes, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one else is watching”. And, yes, I will argue (?) integrity all day long, especially when I see someone’s being challenged with nothing to back it up except opinion.

      • Hi Asher, please see my response to Tad. We do not tolerate personal insults of any kind on this blog. Thanks.

    • Actually, I believed the associate when she told me the doorbuster price had expired, and since I could get that treadmill for $579 any day of the week there was no longer a rush to buy it. So when I told her I wasn’t ready, it was because I wasn’t so sure about it anymore and the time sensitivity of the deal no longer applied. I happened to look it up again online when I got home, though, and saw it was still on sale online, which changed things again. I left that piece out of the article since it wasn’t highly relevant to the point and only complicated the story unnecessarily.

      I understand this is a controversial practice, and I fully support a debate. I want to be crystal clear on that fact. In fact, that controversy is one of the reasons I decided to write this post! But while disagreeing with me is cool, calling someone a liar, whether it’s directed at me or anyone else, is not. We definitely welcome intelligent debate, but as soon as any conversation degenerates into personal insults, we start pulling comments down. I’d hate to do that here since it would just be interpreted as some emotional kneejerk response from the author, but I will not tolerate insults toward ANYONE on this blog.

  7. Rose says:

    I’ve showroomed at Sears and was able to get the item I was shopping for at the store, at the online price. I was in the market for a vacuum cleaner and after much research, found the one I wanted at Sears online. I went to the store (less than a mile from my home) and told the salesman what I was looking for. He showed me the cleaner, told me the pros and cons of that particular model and asked if he could ring it up for me. I told him it was on their website for $60.00 less than it was in the store and I was just going to order it online. He said “I wish you wouldn’t do that, we get credit here on the store level and it shows in my check if I make the sale”. I asked him what he could do to match or at least make it worth my while to give him the sale then and there. He gave me $40.00 off the vacuum and threw in a package of bags (with manager approval). I did spend a couple of dollars more than if I had ordered it online, but I figured I was helping to keep a neighbor employed and I walked out with the vacuum. We were both happy.

  8. john barden says:

    i agree with asher. well said.
    Rebecca: stay strong! good buy! now get on that treadmill and run baby! ;)

  9. Sara Johnson says:

    Jeff’s remarks about “opinionated people” were personal and off topic. He makes a lot of assumptions and leaps of logic, insinuating I’m opinionated, perhaps jealous, a hippocrite, liar, and coward who would “definitely” engage in lies and deceit if I could hide “behind closed doors.” A sad attempt to attack my integrity and character.

    “I do not wish to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.” (If I may borrow a phrase.) So I will sign off with this post.

    To Jeff:
    You’re probably not capable of seeing what you revealed about yourself in your first post. But study it, try hard. Maybe something will get through. Meanwhile I hope you find a happier life.
    Have a nice day.

  10. Joe says:

    Psssshhhhhh….stores have been gouging us so many times it’s about time they have to really watch how they’re selling things. Maybe off-line shopping will come back. I think it’s wonderful that these people shop around and get the best deal…and if you’ve never done it (even discluding internet) it’s about time you learned what your money goes for. We will never quit price checking, so get used to it – purchaser and seller.

  11. Julie says:

    If someone were to go in with the express purpose of wasting a salesperson’s time – in order to ascertain what they wanted to buy, knowing they were never going to buy then sure I think it’s wrong. But shopping wisely is a whole different enchilada.

    Four years ago, I went to several local stores and the big box hardwares looking for an oven, range, and dishwasher when we were remodeling. Lowe’s came the closest to having what I wanted but not quite – the salesperson pointed out they could special order. I took all my notes home and compared online models to see which had the features I wanted. When I narrowed down my choices, I first went back to the smaller mom & pop store to see if they could price match – nope, not even a discount. And they were twice as expensive as the big boys on the same items. I went back to Lowe’s to see if they would discount. They matched the price of the online offers I had. Even better for $169 I was able to get an expanded 5 year warranty for all three items (and yes, I have needed and used that warranty on three occasions.)

    I saved $900 on the convection oven, $300 on the range and $400 on the dishwasher compared to the listed prices on the special order at Lowe’s. For $1600, you bet I will shop around. Through a lot of calls and going to a lot of places, I found a granite installer that would do 3 cm granite throughout kitchen 80 sf. for $2400 – the first two estimates were $7000 and $6500. The $1600 savings paid for 2/3 of the granite.

    There is nothing wrong with show rooming under most circumstances. A few years ago, I saw a Christmas tree on Walmart.com. I went to my local store to make sure I liked it. I went with the intent to buy the tree at the store. The price was triple in store from on the website. (Web included free ship to store so that wasn’t the difference. I checked with salesperson (not the best at WalMart) and a manager and neither would match their own website pricing. On the way home, I went by Target to pick up gifts. Saw an identical tree there and mentioned that Walmart had one on their website for a lower price. They were more than happy to match and make the sale. Honestly, why wouldn’t Walmart want to make a sale one way or the other?

    And bed linens on sale? You bet – whenever I’m at Macy’s or Dillard’s I stroll through to check out patterns and colors. If I see something I like I note it on my phone. Later on if I see it on sale on Brad’s or elsewhere I know if I like that color/style, etc.

    Rebecca was more than upfront when she went to Sears. Not only do I not see a problem, I do the same thing. I don’t shop with someone to deceive but I do look for good values. Sears could have checked the online pricing while she was there and made the sale in store. That was the salesperson’s choice.

    Do I feel for retailer’s? Not a lot. In one back to school weekend, I noticed and pointed out over $82 in pricing errors. All the stores were apologetic and fixed them but still had I not been watching I wouldn’t have realized I overpaid by almost a hundred dollars. These were all errors from what was scanned and what was printed on the price tags. Gap, Macy’s, Nordstroms, Walmart and Old Navy all had errors. When you look at the average expenditures and amount of shoppers near the back to school times of year, that could easily be incorrect billings of $40,000 to $80,000 and that would be on the low end of only 1000 shoppers.

    So, to talk about ethics and morals and responsibility – the stores also have to take on some of the responsibility. Out of all the stores that I had errors, Nordstroms was only $2. They apologized profusely and gave me and all three of my kids free drinks from the bistro. That is customer service. I had to argue at Walmart for 10 minutes because they charged .20 per packet for KoolAid that was marked on the shelf for .18. No, the 40 cents for my twenty packs was not a big deal. Heck, it wasn’t really worth my time. But it was the principle of the matter. How many Walmarts are there? If they are all charging the wrong amount? That $.02 adds up at an alarming rate.

    So yes, I will showroom shop. I will pay a little more for shoes for my children at Nordstroms because of the outstanding service – which I value. But for those stores who don’t have great service and tend to be rude and overcharge – well, I don’t feel any more loyalty to them than they show to me.

    • jeff maynard says:

      hooray for Julie! this is what we call and educated consumer; not a narrow minded sensitive and opinionated idiot.

      • asher yotzar says:


      • Melody Ann says:

        How many times does it have to be stated on here for people to understand?! There’s NO name calling, etc on this site. I was enjoying the debate going on here until I got to your post. People should be able to state there opinions on here without fear of being personally attacked. Argue with there opinion all you want but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE stop the attacks on the person I beg you!!!!!!!

  12. Denise says:

    I love this article. I showroom all the time and I am very upfront about it with the sales people I deal with at the stores. I shop at GNC and will always ask them in the store if they will price match to their website, and they give me some ridiculous story about how they “just can’t possibly do that.” So I have no issue with this at all. I’ve been able to save a lot of money doing this and I highly recommend it to others. Nothing dishonest about it.

  13. TonyC says:

    Great story and a reminder of the economic times we are in….if brick and mortar does not catch up GLOBALLY,then they unfortunately fail..look at Amazon.com for example…I’ve been shopping there since Jeff Besos started this company and watched grow beyond belief.Today(1/10/13) they initiated a new policy: if you bought anything from their CD store in the past, it automatically gets converted(if available) to your MP3 Amazon library, this is where Apple(iTunes) loses me…the other thing is I try and buy USA made and that is getting better
    Thanks Rececca for the story..
    Happy New Year..

  14. Cindy says:

    Dishonesty – really?? How many times have you shopped several brick and mortar stores for the best price on something? Do you consider that you were dishonest to the stores you don’t buy from? Grow up people!

  15. MA says:

    I do the opposite with large purchases. I research it on line with customer reviews and go to a brick and mortar store for the purchase. I don’t waste a sales person’s time, or mine for that matter, and I know the price range and what I am looking for.

    I prefer shopping at the stores because: 1) They employ people; 2) I can see the quality of the materials.

    My two cents on using up a sales person’s time and commission is if you just run in and take a peek that’s fine, but it you take up a lot of time asking questions knowing you are not going to buy there I think that at best you are cheating.

    Final advice do not take out store credit cards or take the extended warranty.

  16. Tad says:

    I’ve been trying to find something other than WordPress, also. It looks like this site is actually owned by Bradsdeals (from what I can gather from the Terms of Service and Pirivacy Policy). If you find something other than WordPress or BlogSpot, I’d love to know where it is! Best to you!

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