Examining Merchandise Online with No Intention to Purchase
For many years, I’ve understood it is forbidden by halacha to enter a store and examine merchandise without any intention of buying it (commonly known as window shopping). The reason is that you are giving the merchant false hopes they will earn money that they really never will earn.
In the age of the internet, I have found it is possible to read about merchandise for sale and examine it online even if one has no intention of buying it. I have done this often only to satisfy my curiosity about things I could never afford. I always thought this was a benign activity. But I have noticed over the years that when I do that, I receive ads for the very merchandise I have examined online, all without asking.
I recently learned from an article I read that when you do this, not only do you trigger ads. But the company whose ads are being displayed to you actually pays on a per ad basis for those ads that come to your browser. In other words, one’s examination of merchandise on a website is costing that company money, whether you buy their merchandise or not.
I understand companies have budgeted for this in their advertising funds. But what is the perspective of this in halacha?