Consumers often complain that sales staff at luxury retailers ignore or reject average customers. Employees in the industry confirm that sales staff at luxury retailers do sometimes size up customers, choosing who to help and who to avoid based on what they wear. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the rejected consumer would choose not to buy the specific brand. Morgan Ward, assistant professor of marketing, and coauthor Darren W. Dahl (U of British Columbia) challenge this idea “by exploring how negative customer service experiences can, in some instances, facilitate more positive attitudes and customers’ desire for the brand.” The pair tested their theory by providing study participants with a variety of shopping scenarios involving being rejected versus receiving a neutral response from the salesperson while in a luxury retailer. Ward and Dahl discover that shoppers who “relate their self-concept to an aspirational brand” become more motivated to buy that luxury brand after a salesperson’s rejection, in order to be accepted by what they perceive as the in-crowd.
Morgan Ward Assistant Professor of Marketing