Bed Bath & Beyond Forbids Cell Phone Cameras

Bed Bath & Beyond tries to prevent shoppers from doing any online comparisons or research, because it has a “no photos” policy in its store. I discovered this yesterday when I used my cellphone to take a no-flash, silent photo of a coffee grinder. A store associate walked up and said, “You can’t take photos of merchandise. It’s store policy.”

We proceeded to have a conversation about this policy, where I explained that there are good reasons to let customers take quick snapshots of products, and he explained that “every store has a policy like this” and that “it’s been around for forty years,” and if I wanted a photo I could go to their website. He also said the policy was to prevent spies from stealing trade secrets. (He actually just said “You could be a spy,” but I’m assuming he meant the retail kind, and not the Polonium-210 kind.)

In all stores I’ve been in, I’ve been allowed to take photographs of products with my cellphone. I do it now without even thinking about it—and often, if I decide to buy the product, I go back to that store because that’s where I first saw it. It’s like a DIY brochure for the item.

I called the corporate office and asked whether this was really a company-wide policy, and the customer service rep kept repeating that it was, that she was sorry for my inconvenience, and that if I wanted to take photos I had to ask for permission from a District Customer Service Manager, who would take my name and reason for the photos and then contact the store to set up an appointment. So now you know what you need to do if you want to snap an impromptu photo of an item.

Bed Bath & Beyond: you have a reputation for treating your customers with respect, so please grasp that here are at least half a dozen reasons a shopper might want to take a photo:

  • He might be going to meet someone he wants to show it to.
  • He might want a good image of the box that includes any model numbers and product information for reference when he looks up product reviews online.
  • He might want a “real world” photo of it from a specific angle to match it with existing products he owns, or products for sale in other stores, and he doesn’t want to rely on the manufacturer’s beauty shot.
  • He might want to compare a different model in another store side by side with this one, and using cell phone photos makes more sense than buying and returning the product.
  • Maybe he wants to send the photo to his mom right there from the showroom floor to see if this is the grinder she wants—and if so, then he will buy it right then.
  • Or maybe he just doesn’t have pen and paper with him (after all, why do you need to carry a notepad when you can take a photo of the product?)

At least one of those reasons could lead directly to a sale for the retailer during the same visit, and several of them could lead to a future sale—yet Bed Bath & Beyond insists on a shortsighted policy of trying to control its shoppers’ behavior so they can’t make smart decisions.

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