modern theft?

Just saw a video from Prager U YouTube channel about customers who go to brick & mortar stores with no intention of buying there but rather to get info about the product the want to purchase online. Prager says this is a form of theft & I have to agree although it seems to have become accepted practice. Bookstores and other stores have become effectively showrooms for goods that people will buy online.

I’ve done this a few times myself but never really stopped to think about it.

Is this really any different from shopping around for the best buy? I see the point being made,

In the video he says there is no problem going store to store comparison shopping and finally deciding to buy from one of them.

Can’t watch videos so don’t know the point being made, but I don’t see any difference either in shopping around for the best price. Because I live in the boonies it costs too much to do my shopping around in person, so I check prices on-line. Most stores post them. I did some comparisons on-line recently because I was looking for a certain size coffee maker. Our local WalMart didn’t carry one, so I looked on-line. The only store that carried 4-5 cup coffee makers was Target. So my next trip to Spokane I went there & not only did they have a very nice one, it was on-sale. :smiley:

I don’t think he is talking about comparison shopping. He is speaking about going to an actual store, not online, and wasting the salesperson’s time asking questions etc when you **already know **that you are **not ** going to purchase anything. It is an interesting and thought provoking video.

It may also be foolish, considering that some brick & mortar retailers will price-match on retailers. Why would I buy online when a brick & mortar store might offer the same price and discount an additional 5-10%?


I think this would be very hard to identify as theft… I recently shopped online for an identical item which I found priced variously between £14.99 and £60 - so guess which I went for?

Similarly I always check an online price before going to an actual store, as it gives me a bargaining counter.

At a branch of Oka recently I saw a lamp I wanted - which was priced online at £75 - on sale in the actual shop at £120. I invited the shop assistant to match her company’s online price and she was at first rather taken aback until I said I would scarcely pay £45 more for an item I could have delivered free to my home the very next morning…so having checked with her manager I did indeed buy it for the lower price.

When it comes to retail no-one is obliged to buy or sell at any particular price, and these things are always a matter of negotiation - one might as easily say making an excessive profit is a form of “theft”, or that companies have no right to charge the full price the day before announcing a 50% sale.

So if you have done your homework ahead of time you can always ask retailers to match an online price - and leave it up to them whether they want to or not.

First of all, unless one happens to be an Orthodox Jew, I don’t think it makes much sense to analyze the morality of something based on Talmudic principles. Many of those principles are interpretations of portions of the Torah which have no correspondence to the natural law, and it is the natural law that is in question here.

Secondly, the example of the woman assumes many things about her thoughts when entering the store which, to my mind, simply appear to be rash judgment. Judging people rashly is also sinful and wrong.

Thirdly, the main problem with calling this theft is that (a) it involves no object or good and (b) it assumes something is being taken against the reasonable will of the rightful owner.

(a) To say that a store’s time is being taken up is not the same thing as saying that money is being stolen, because it is not obvious that money would have been earned during the time it took to show a particular customer various goods. It is possible that sales may have been delayed during that time. It is not obvious that sales have been made impossible, as if someone wanted to purchase an item but left in a huff because things were taking too long. So what, precisely, is being stolen? The most that can be said is that information was taken from a salesperson against their will because they assumed the customer intended to make a purchase. Excuse me, but that is not a valid assumption. Salespeople don’t regularly assume that every single person walking into a store and speaking to them is going to purchase the item they ask about.

(b) Since it isn’t valid to assume that every customer who asks about a product is intending to purchase it, nothing is being taken against the will of the rightful owner. The salesperson willingly cooperates with the questions being asked because they know there’s a chance they might make a sale. This is because there is the potential to make a sale, not because it is something inevitable. In fact, even if a good salesperson thought someone did not intend on making a purchase, they may very well invest their time anyway, since there’s the potential to change people’s minds and to offer them good deals.

Having said all of this, I do think the practice described is disrespectful and slightly unfair and, yes, dishonest. I also think the video did a great job of making some excellent points. But I could not describe any of this as theft.

If the customer sees the right price in a store, they might change their mind, non?

So no, I don’t find any sin here.


Definitely not theft, and I don’t think it’s dishonest either. The most likely reason a person would go to a store to get info on a product they intend to buy online is that the item is cheaper. The store has an opportunity to price match, but they may choose not to. I did this when I was looking for a stroller. I couldn’t afford the ticket price at Buy Buy Baby, but I wanted to see the item in person. Guess what, I told the sales person that Burlington coat factory had it online at a lower price and she sold it to me at the lower price. I also noticed other products in the store that I bought that day as well as others that I bought later on, that I wouldn’t have known existed otherwise.

:smiley: Nah, I would call that “extremely rude” but definitely not “theft” of any kind. I just can’t comprehend how could someone do something like that and not feel like a total jerk. I mean, it’s of course common practice for people to go into a store and look at an item before they go home and buy it on Amazon, but to actually ask for a website that has it cheaper is hilariously callous and boorish. It would make a funny movie scene, actually.

I’m in the habit of seeking out and then browsing through any and all of the few remaining used bookstores I can find in this country, and when I see stuff like that it drives me up the wall. Local small businesses are just fun places to go to and patronize with your money, but small local bookstores most of all. I mean, book people tend to be really nice, decent, honest people, and then I see people browsing through their stacks and checking their prices against those on their iPhones in order to relist them at a profit. I’ve always checked myself before I actually said anything, but it strikes me as a really sleazy thing for people to do. :shrug:

Is this like muting the TV when commercials are on? If I watch a show and mute the commercials, am I “stealing” from the show’s sponsors by enjoying the content they’re paying for without listening to their sales pitches? :rolleyes:

I remember Mother Angelica once talking about postage stamps.

She asked if anyone ever got a letter and the stamp hadn’t been canceled. She said that reusing the stamp, peeling it off, or steaming it off, and gluing it on an envelope and using it again was stealing.

Someone paid for that stamp already and it got mail to you. To use it again is stealing because you are getting a service you did not pay for.

My guess is there will be a slew of people coming on to tell me how she was wrong.

No. You have to watch the screen to know when to put the sound back on. Ergo, the commercial content still registers in your eyes.


That’s what the USPS will tell you, too. Even if you put a stamp on a wrong envelope, take it off & put it on another envelope, the USPS will be mad at you. But I don’t consider it stealing & we do it all the time & have done it for years. Haven’t been caught yet! :whistle:

It’s investigation, not theft!

The consumer has the right to look for the best price for his/her product of choice. Before the internet days this would involve driving from bookstore to bookstore in search of the best prices, or only purchasing books when there was a sale, or stashing coupons.

Looking is free.

Thank you and this is the situation I am in also. Boonies unite!

Er… I have an envelope on my kitchen table; stamp not franked… will be used this week. NB The Poor Clares once gave me a whole package of these unfranked stamps. They had too many and knew my situation.

Stores open. People browse.
They encourage people to browse. It’s their job to persuade me to trade with them.

They find something they think or KNOW they can get at a better price online.
They find it on Amazon.
They have it shipped to their home for free.
I don’t see the sin here.

Sounds like good stewardship of their money to me.

I guess I find it hard to believe that the circumstances under which this could be considered sinful would be met very often. I am huge on saving money, but I wouldn’t go into a store simply to research a product with **no **chance of buying it from that retailer. I might not buy it that specific day, and I might end up buying it elsewhere if I buy it at all, but I don’t think that’s sinful. The retailer always has the opportunity to make its case that I should buy it from them after all. :wink:

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