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.
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.
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.