'Snobby' staff can increase sales in high-end stores, UBC study finds
Published Wednesday, April 30, 2014 10:09AM EDT
Shoppers are more likely to drop money in high-end stores if they're treated rudely by salespeople, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.
The study from UBC's Sauder School of Business suggests that customers who are rebuffed by aloof salespeople at high-end luxury stores are more willing to purchase items from that same brand.
"For luxury retailers, when consumers were treated poorly or rudely, they would actually respond better to the salesperson. They would want to purchase the brand (and) they would be willing to pay more," Prof. Darren Dahl, the study's lead author, told CTV Vancouver.
Participants in the study were asked to rate their feelings about a particular brand, after having interactions with the company's salespeople.
The study found that participants who aspired to be associated with luxury brands also reported an increased desire to own products from that company, even after receiving poor treatment.
However, the effect was only observed if the salesperson appeared to be an "authentic" representative of the brand, according to a statement from the school. "If (the salesperson) didn't fit the part, the consumer was turned off," the statement said.
Researchers also found that snobby staff did not produce the same effect for mass-market brands.
"Our study shows you’ve got to be the right kind of snob in the right kind of store for the effect to work," Dahl said in the statement.
According to Dahl, the effect can be attributed to the consumer’s desire to belong.
"When you're in the store and someone says 'You don't belong to this club and I'm going to be rude to you,' it makes you want to belong to the club even more," he said.
Dahl noted the research was inspired by a personal encounter he had with a salesperson who treated him rudely when he tried to buy cologne.
Angered by her attitude, Dahl bought two bottles instead of one.
Retail analyst Raymond Shoolman said this type of consumer behaviour is common.
"There is definitely a segment of people who find that attitude enjoyable," he said. "They shop at these stores frequently, they know how to deal with these kinds of salespeople."
The effect may not be long-lasting though. Researchers found that the improved impressions of high-end brands eventually faded, with study participants reporting significantly diminished desire two weeks after initial contact with the salesperson.
Meanwhile, shoppers in Vancouver had mixed views of the notion that being brushed-off by store staff might induce more retail desire.
"I think that's awful," one shopper said. "I wouldn't want somebody selling me something and being rude."
Another shopper said she feels like she gets treated differently whenever she enters a high-end store.
"I do notice you get the look, as in 'How am I dressed, what do I look like,'" she said.
The study will be published in the October edition of The Journal of Consumer Research.
With a report by CTV Vancouver's Shannon Patterson and files from CTV Vancouver