HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >


Is it Bad Form...

to go to Williams-Sonoma (or any other store) and ask to try out a bunch of different knives to see which ones you like and then go on the internet to purchase them because you can get them cheaper??

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. yes, just by asking the question you know that it is in very bad form.

    1. I don't think it's bad form. You're not obligated to purchase from Williams-Sonoma just because you tried out a few knives there. If the price difference was minimal (subjective I know) then I would give them the benefit of the sale but if I could save a lot of money buying the same knives over the internet I certainly would.

      1. It's not right to take up a saleperson's time while you test out knives and and then turn around and buy the same item cheaper on-line. Part of the price of those items in a Williams-Sonoma store is precisely due to the fact that they have brick and mortar stores where you can come in, touch things, ask questions, and even test them. These things cost a lot of money, overhead costs that on-line establishments don't have to bear.

        And like a previous poster already said, you already knew that or you wouldn't have asked the question.

        1. Without getting too philosophical about the concept of "form," I'd say that it has limited applicability in the retail world. Handling an item in a store, or discussing it with a salesperson, doesn't imply any obligation to buy it, except maybe under very unusual circumstances. Retailers expect that people will shop around for whatever they consider the best value, whether it's based on price alone, on a combination of price and service, or on some more personal issue. With regard to your particular scenario, I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all answer. It may or may not be bad form in your etiquette book (which may have gone through several editions since internet retailing took off), and it may or may not cause a moral dilemma for you, but it's certainly common practice.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Miss Priss

            I would have to agree with frobe and MissPriss here on this topic. In any facet of retail or wholesale buying, you are under no obligation to make a purchase for asking questions or taking a test drive of the products......I consider this research for a future purchase.

          2. Hi Philly Ray, I would have to say that it is definitly bad form to walk into a store, engage a sales person, handle all the lovely items that the store has on display, determine which item best suits your purpose based on this interaction and then leave, go home, log on and order it from some warehouse that provided none of these services.

            Can you tell I feel a little strongly about this??? My sister does this all the time and we have had many discussions about it.

            1. I work in a kitchen shop. Do people come in, spend a lot of time with me, ask me lots of questions about knives or cookware determining what it is that would best suit them...and then go buy it on-line somewhere? Sure, all the time. We know it and realize it's just how it works sometime.

              That said....we do pride ourselves on our knowledge and service and hope that customers can see that as an added advantage in purchasing from us. Hopefully if I spend a lot of time educating you on something you'll appreciate that and seek me and my store out for help the next time you need something and you'll become a loyal customer.

              If your local kitchen shop isn't as competitive as you'd like them to be on knives(hey, I'm no dummy, I know there are better deals online) but you find them knowledgeable, helpful and friendly, do consider supporting them with other purchases you might need in the future. Also, consider asking them for a price match. Often, if you bring in documentation of the better price they will try and match it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ziggylu


                this is the first practical comment, and honest assessment to date. I find it comical anyone could even possibly question a person's motive and or actions regarding this issue.....like no one here has ever price shopped any item in their life, be it a kitchen knife, gadget, small appliance, large appliance or the family car. What's different than walking out undecided and purchasing at a later date when on sale and or at the buying club like Costco Wholesale?. For all you who think it is in bad form,, when you do purchase it on sale, do you offer the savings you received back to the sales person and or store. I didn't think so.

                1. re: fourunder

                  Why would I offer the savings of a sale price back to the store? They're setting the selling price. That analogy makes no sense.

                  Price shopping and trying one place buying another are not the same thing. If the ability to try before you buy is important, I don't have a problem paying more for that service.

                  If being able to try something out before you buy it isn't important, just buy it straght off the internet instead of wasting your time in a store. If it is, shoot the lock off your wallet and pay for the service.

              2. people actually do this? I wouldnt do it.

                I can see myself shopping around at a couple of different retailers to find the best price on the item, but when I am purchasing something I want it now, and rarely if ever buy anything on the internet, I am willing to pay more to touch, and get an item asap, rather than save a few $$ and have to wait for it to be shipped.

                  1. re: Jennifer_B

                    I agree with frobe, miss priss et al. If you're not taking an inordinate amount of the sales person's time, I think that it's fine. It would be "bad form" if the sales person were working on commission and there were other customers they might be helping. This may be more of a female experience, but, hey, think about shoe shopping where you may try on lots of shoes and leave the store with none, then get home pining for that one cool pair (that you now know fits perfectly) that was way too expensive and order them from zappos.com.....

                    1. re: janeh

                      Yes, it definitely makes it worse if the salesperson works on commission and you're taking a lot of their time.

                  2. Hey Philly Ray: go to Fante's in the Italian Market, their prices are actually not much higher than most internet knife vendors that I have seen. And they have cutting boards laid out for trying out the knives.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Buckethead

                      This is a great tip - I only live about an hour from Philly myself. Thanks!

                    2. Is it bad form, no not really but.... I have usually done my shopping before I ever walk into the store and I have narrowed my choices down to a couple of knives and I know what they can be purchased for on the web. WS is quite competitive on Shun's and usually it's not worth paying the shipping to purchase it on the web, you don't really save a bit of money that way. All the Shun's I've purchased at WS have been within a couple of dollars of the web pricing I've found. I haven't shopped other brands so I couldn't tell you it the same rings true for them. I have found that purchasing at the local level does have benefits, such as returning something and developing good rapport with the store. The WS stores that I shop, know me and will call me when they have an up coming sale on an item I've been shopping. Usually when WS has an exclusive on an item, it's only for a year and after that year is up they generally will clearance it out at great prices, so they don't have to compete with others on that item. I'm just waiting for that All-Clad griddle to go on the block.

                      1. Is it bad form? Well....yes. No, you aren't legally obligated to purchase where you did the "try before you buy". The law permits all sorts of reprehensible behavior.

                        Ethically, it is depraved. WS has high prices because they offer service, selection and inventory. As high as their prices are, my guess is that their profit margins are as slim as any retailer. To take it to a more practical level, if you want that sort of service, it is your responsibility to pay for it. If places like WS don't get sales, they 86 and you are stuck between no-service StuffMart and buying sight-unseen online.

                        As a customer, you have the right and the responsibility to yourself to shop around and get the best value. If you can get something on sale, awesome.
                        Just remember the golden rule -- how would you feel if you were the person serving a customer that used your service to buy elsewhere? My guess is that you would feel pretty rotten.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MikeB3542

                          ~~As a customer, you have the right and the responsibility to yourself to shop around and get the best value. ~~

                          You hit the nail on the head. What many people don't seem to realize is that value and price are not the same thing. An online retailer is selling you a knife. A good knife shop is selling you a knife PLUS a place where you can go in and try it out and (hopefully) significant expertise to guide you in your purchase. A consumer should expect to pay for these things in addition to the cost of the knife.

                          It's always nice when a shop can compete on price, too. But consumer fixation on prices to the exclusion of all else is leading to the WalMartization of America. And I for one don't think that's a good thing.

                        2. I am not a retailer but my guess would be that, given the choice, most retailers would rather a potential customer come in to 'try something out' than have them just order on line to begin with: on the chance that they will like the product and/or the service enough that they will buy something there....

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: susancinsf

                            Right. Anytime a customer comes through our door they represent an opportunity for us. They may come in to try knives with the intention to buy them elsewhere but at least they came in. They may decide to buy from us after all(immediate gratification! Why wait for shipping? As mentioned on the big brand names, prices aren't that much better elsewhere from the major retailers). If they don't buy the knife, inevitably they'll look around and they may pick something else up - typically something they didn't plan to buy. Impulse shopping! Who hasn't been guilty of this in their life? And like I mentioned above hopefully they'll get a good impression of us and come see us the next time they need something,

                            I was camped out in our knife department for 5 hours today....a slow day as many have been in these economic times. But....we did sell a fair amount of knifes during this time. Lots of people however looked, touched, played, asked lots of questions, let me show them how to maintain their knives but didn't buy anything from our knife inventory. Maybe some will come back for Christmas, maybe some will buy online. On the bright side many people did pick up other things in the store so their visit wasn't a loss for us at all.

                            It's all about the big picture for the retailer. The customer has to decide what they're comfortable with and what is important to them. If you like your local shops to stay in business however, do consider supporting them especially in these times. I heard today one of our oldest independent kitchen stores in town will be closing due financial issues from the economic downturn. This makes me sad. Maybe they lost one too many sales to the internet. Who knows? But good people are losing their jobs and a good lady is closing her business...

                            1. re: ziggylu

                              Great point about trying out one thing and buying something else you see that catches your eye that isn't available online. Who is to say you won't go in, try the knives, and realize that nothing available is quite what you wanted? I know I've been to stores for other items and have told salespeople that I've found the product cheaper elsewhere and am going to have to go there instead. At that point, the salesperson may tell me if a sale is coming up that might make the price comparable/better. If they do and the choice is between going back there in a week or ordering online, I might as well just come back in a week.

                              1. re: ziggylu

                                I tend to do the reverse, but then again here in Bangkok, a lot of items found on the net (US based) will not be shipped internationally - like heat diffusers for example.

                                If I want items that are available locally, I'll check out the internet offerings, then head to the store. Perhaps I pay more, but with periodic purchases from the same sales supervisor in our regular department store, we have built up a relationship to the point that she will give us freebies or advise us to hold on until a sale starts in a few weeks time.

                                Freebies? Yes, apparently some major brand names do provide these here. I got 2 ladles the last time I bought a Calphalon Stainless Steel pot.

                                Call me old fashioned, but I still appreciate the personal touch and the warmth.

                                1. re: CPla

                                  Its a little bit sketchy.. but not a bright line call. I'd base it on how much time you are wasting. If its a busy day and you are expecting 30 minutes of consulting, you might get dinged by St. Peter at the Pearly Gates for lack of courtesy. If you walk in when the store is empty, ask if you can handle a few knifes and do your own motions for a few minutes, its probably not that much of a foul, especially if it means you would buy other stuff there later.

                                  And remember - if you do this constantly, don't even think to complain when Sur La Table or WS start closing stores and you CAN'T find a place to test out a knife. The web helps some industrials but hurts others. This is called sleeping in the bed you made..

                            2. Interesting set of responses so far. While I think it's bad form to do this in a market where the sales people are heavily reliant on commission (like real estate or a car sales), I was always under the impression that places like Williams Sonoma don't really mind this kind of thing. People come into the store and find the staff knowledgeable and good products, they keep coming back, eventually they will probably buy stuff.

                              I have vendors that call me at work all the time pretty much "just to chat." I call them to ask questions about things even though I'm not a paying customer. We are basically building a relationship so that I keep them in mind as a choice when purchase time comes.

                              This seems like a similar type of relationship to me.

                              1. I've even pulled out my iphone and checked reviews and prices while I'm still in the store.

                                In my case, that's resulted in a sale where there wouldn't have been one more often
                                than no sale where there would have been one. So I don't have any reason to feel
                                bad about it, regardless of whatever scowling may be going on behind my back.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                  I don't think anybody here has claimed that you're not permitted to be an informed consumer. I don't go around buying things without knowing what similar items are selling for, both in other brick and mortars, and on-line. It's just that I don't always buy based on price alone.

                                2. Sorry to revive an older post, but if you are choosing on price alone, than it is acceptable to me.

                                  I am sure the margin of profit on purchases at WS takes into account multiple customer profiles. On the other hand, WS proximity, returns and service might be valued and worth the extra cost.

                                  No one should make you feel bad that you touch, talk, and buy somewhere else. They lost a sale because the value proposition for you isn't there.

                                  Many a salesman regularly upsell and get you to buy other things if they are good sales people. They might even give a "discount" if you ask. I doubt many feel bad that they sold you something you didn't need.

                                  It seems you were never their customer to begin with and the salesmanship didn't change it.