Should Stores Associates Police Rude Customers?
A new study by the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business says retailers should consider admonishing checkout line jumpers and other disruptive store browsers to ease aggression between shoppers.
"Our study shows that retailers can play a key role in mitigating conflict by calling shoppers on bad shopping etiquette," states Lily Lin, a recent graduate of the Sauder PhD program in a press release. "This is important because research shows retailers can get part of the blame for their badly behaved customers."
The study, Do the Crime, Always Do the Time? Insights into Consumer-to-Consumer Punishment Decisions, was published in Journal of Consumer Research.
Examples of breaking the "social norms while shopping" include cutting in front of others while waiting in line for a cashier, taking multiple free samples and creating a huge mess at a store display.
In an experiment to explore conflicts between shoppers caused by bad behavior, researchers set up a shop display of neatly folded clothing. The object was to test if consumers would punish fellow (planted) "shoppers" who left it in disarray and how reprimanded messy shoppers are treated.
The researchers had their planted shoppers knock over a large stack of paper after browsing the clothing. Those who left the clothing tidy and those who left it untidy but were reprimanded received the same amount of help picking up the paper from fellow customers. But the messy shoppers who received no reprimanding received almost no help at all.
"The study indicates that if someone acts badly in a shopping environment and their behavior goes unchecked, they’re more likely to receive ill treatment from fellow consumers," says Ms. Lin. "Managers need to think about how they can alleviate this friction."
Ms. Lin said such conflicts can affect how consumers make decisions and evaluate their shopping experience. While aisles should be wide enough for shoppers to avoid accidently knocking over product and checkout line order shouldn’t be confusing, retail managers "also need to consider empowering their staff to step in when the rules of shopping are broken."
- New Sauder Research: Retailers should play referee in customer conflicts – Saunder School of Business
- Holiday Shopping Madness: When Do Consumers Seek to Punish Fellow Shoppers for Behaving Badly? – Journal of Consumer Research
- Do the Crime, Always Do the Time? Insights into Consumer-to-Consumer Punishment Decisions – Journal of Consumer Research (Purchase required)
Do retailers get part of the blame for shopper behavior conflicts in the store? What should and shouldn’t store associates do about improper shopper behavior and resolving conflicts between shoppers?