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Bargain shoppers mistreat customer service, report finds

From Black Friday through New Year’s Eve, the holidays often mean shopping, travel, and stress.

Shopping this time of year can bring out the worst in people, but working as a retail employee during the holidays can be especially draining.

According to new research, shoppers who are looking for a deal or discount tend to treat staff as less than human.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia, Sauder School of Business and published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

“When shoppers focus only on paying the lowest price, they become less attuned to understanding the human needs of others, or even recognizing them,” said Johannes Boegershausen, the co-author of the study.

The researchers conducted several experiments dealing with consumers and their opinions on products and employees from both high-end and bargain brands.

In one experiment, the researchers analyzed passenger reviews for several airlines including Ryanair, a discount carrier, and Lufthansa, a high-end airline. The reviews for Ryanair had fewer humanizing trait words compared the higher-tier airlines.

For another similar experiment, study participants were shown pictures of a flight attendant wearing a Lufthansa, Ryanair, or neutral uniform.  

The participants rated the Ryanair attendants poorly compared to to the other uniforms. For the participants, the discount air carrier uniform was equated with being less capable.

Another experiment involved participants interacting with a rude customer service representative via live chat.

If the participants had a price-conscious mentality, they were 18 percent more likely to give a poor rating that would result in disciplinary action against the representative.

An interesting result of the study is that people may not even be consciously aware that when deals and bargains are the priority, they tend to treat staff poorly.

The researchers say that understanding customer-employee relations is important for brands and consumers.

“I think most consumers, myself included, are guilty of this at some point. When you really drill down, you don’t really recognize that someone is fully human anymore,” said Boegershausen. “But it doesn’t take much to be human and to let others know you recognize them as human. Everyone has the right to be considered human.”

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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