What is a Looky-Loo?

Michael Pollick

Some shoppers enter a showroom or store with a specific purpose in mind. Others may have the intention of making a purchase, but want to browse before making a definite decision. A customer who browses with little to no intention to make a purchase, however, is often referred to as a looky-loo. A looky-loo may quietly lurk in the aisles, or seek the attention of a salesperson on the floor. For reasons which should become apparent soon, many retailers dread the sudden and often time-consuming appearance of a looky-loo.

A looky-loo may stop to watch the scene of an accident.
A looky-loo may stop to watch the scene of an accident.

Some people enjoy the act of shopping or browsing, even if they have no intention or means to make a purchase or place an order. They may have a few hours of spare time on their hands, or simply want to get out of their homes and look at big ticket items such as luxury cars, recreational vehicles, or upscale houses open for viewing. Looky-loos may ask for a guided tour of a home or to test drive an expensive sports car, knowing these items are strictly out of their price range.

Looky-loos need to be careful as to not get in the way of emergency personnel.
Looky-loos need to be careful as to not get in the way of emergency personnel.

A looky-loo can take up much of a salesperson's time and energy, which can prove to be costly if the employee misses an opportunity to greet an actual paying customer. Salespeople often earn commissions on the sales they make, so spending a significant amount of time with a looky-loo can affect overall company sales figures for the day. This is why a number of salespeople will politely back away from a customer who says he is simply browsing or looking around.

The term looky-loo is by no means a scientific or universal definition. It is most likely derived from a fanciful alliteration of the word looker. Some retailers tend to use code words for certain types of customers in order to inform their sales staff of a potential looky-loo or price haggler or other alternative form of shopper. Many sales professionals tolerate the occasional looky-loo, because even a serial browser may become a paying customer one day.

Some individuals ask for a test drive with no real intention of purchasing the vehicle.
Some individuals ask for a test drive with no real intention of purchasing the vehicle.

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Discussion Comments


Ugh! I despise/hate/can't abide "Looky-Loos!" Mind you, I'm not talking about the considerate person who states, unequivocally, "I'm just looking." Hey, if 'looking' and not bothering a sales person brings you joy, then I'm happy that you're happy.

What I'm talking about is the Idiot who goes to Brick & Mortar stores to quiz the sales person and then buys online from a cheaper source or they call a company to have a sales person come out to their home, to provide a quote and pump them for information! I fall into the latter division and after 30 years of owning a landscape company, I've become an expert at ferreting out 'looky-loos' over the phone. What they want to do is pump as many professionals for information, then call up their buddies and provide a keg to build a deck or patio on a weekend with that purloined information!

So, I tell every cold call over the phone, "I charge $200/hour for consultation about a project. If you sign with my company, you get the $200 back as a credit on your project." It weeds out 99.99 percent of the grifters and the 1/100 percent who wants to pay the $200 fee, well, then we both got what we wanted/needed from each other.


@spotOn - There may be some truth to the buyers and liars thing. I know that I wouldn't browse through a ski shop because I have no interest in skiing; but, yes, I would browse a car lot because I would buy a new car in a heartbeat if money were no object. I think that's the point the manager tries to make: Customers think money is an object and the manager wants the opportunity to show a lookie-loo that he can he can get them into a car through creative financing.


I was a car salesman for a while. On most car lots, you have sales people and a sales manager. If a sales person reports to the sales manager that a customer is a looky-loo, he is usually in for a bad time from the manager.

Mangers have a saying: There's buyers and there's liars. In other words, if someone doesn't buy, it's because the salesman believed that the customer was just looking, and the salesman didn't do a good job of converting the customer to a buyer. As @popcorn said, there's a good chance someone wants to buy in the future. The salesman's job is to get him to buy now.


I have to admit to being a looky-loo, especially when it is a matter of just getting out of the house for something to do. I love to look at new products and spend time examining my options.

There is a good chance I will eventually purchase what I am looking at but sometimes I just like to get in some window-shopping. I think that going out for a looky-loo day can be a lot of fun.

To be fair to the salespeople I always let them know I am just browsing. I don't want someone fawning over me while I am just looking as it makes me uncomfortable.


@whiteplane - I am not sure that getting under the skin of salespeople is really something people should strive for. While there is nothing wrong with being a looky-loo, I think it a terrible thing to go into a store and waste a salesperson's time if you have no intention of buying anything.

Asking a question or trying things on is OK, after all that is a huge part of retail, but purposely pestering someone with questions and problems you have with a product just to keep them honest is ridiculous. Often salespeople have no say in the pricing of the objects they are selling, and many don't even work on commission.

I think everyone needs to remember that salespeople are just trying to do their job like everyone else.


@gravois - I completely agree. Here in America I think we are often too considerate as shoppers. We are usually quick to pay full price, overlook defects and worry about wasting the sales peoples time. But there is really no reason to behave like this. Commercial environments do all kinds of things to get you to spend more money on things that you don't need. We shouldn't feel bad about being less than ideal shoppers. As a matter of fact it is probably a good thing to get under the skin of salespeople every once in a while. It keeps them honest and lets them know that not everyone is just a blind consumer.


I know that I am guilty of being a looky loo on more than one occasion but I don't feel any remorse. Sometimes it is just nice to look at something even if you know you could never buy it. It is fuel for the imagination. And I really don't feel too bad for the salesmen. It might not be me that ends up buying this super expensive speed boat, but someone will eventually and the salesman will make a fat commission. Whatever time I may have wasted will be compensated for then. We all need to be able to aspire to things. Look loos are just always looking up.


I always associate the term looky loo with a kind of old timey huckster salesman. You imagine someone twirling a waxed mustache in their hands and complaining about all the look loos who come out to hear your pitch about nerve tonic but go home without buying a bottle. This is one word in a whole language of grift that seems like something out of a bygone era. Today's salesmen just don't have the silver tongues that they used to.


My professor asked us the origins of this term.

Specifically, in which US state did this term originate?


Another version of the looky-loo is the rubbernecker, often at the scene of a traffic accident, and occasionally known for causing a few because he or she is too busy scoping out the accident scene to pay attention to his or her driving. They're all seriously annoying.

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