Study: Salesperson’s Rude Attitude Can Put Customers In The Buying Mood

Big mistake? Vivian would've probably liked these meanies according to this study.

Big mistake? Vivian would’ve probably liked these meanies according to this study.

Walking into the rarefied air of a fancy boutique might take your breath away if you’re not used to staring at price tags with more zeroes tacked on than you’ve ever held in your hands, but add in a hoity toity salesperson and and you’ve got shopping magic, says a new study looking at snobby sales staff.

Instead of a ginger avenging angel in the guise of Julia Roberts, triumphing over her former tormentors by waving her high-end purchases in their snobby faces a la Pretty Woman, the study says that when sales people act above the shopper, people can be swayed into buying those tony goods, says a study from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.

Published in the upcoming Journal of Consumer Research, the study says such treatment might make shoppers feel like they’re getting the real, fancy deal.

“It appears that snobbiness might actually be a qualification worth considering for luxury brands like Louis Vuitton or Gucci,” says Sauder Marketing Prof. Darren Dahl. “Our research indicates they can end up having a similar effect to an ‘in-group’ in high school that others aspire to join.”

Ah yes, leave it to the cool kids to be mean to someone, just to find that such treatment only further chains the poor outcast to the idea of buying her way into acceptance! Sorry, there’s a 12-year-old in me who is feeling skeptical of this whole thing.

Anyway, participants in the study had imagined or real interactions with sales representatives, some who were rude, some who were perfectly pleasant. They then rated their feelings about the brands they were shown and how much they wanted to own them.

Lo and behold, participants said they wanted to be associated with high-end brands and felt that way more after they’d been treated like the stuff on the bottom of Tiffany’s perfectly white Keds. Shh, quiet, 12-year-old me.

However, the sales person had to really come off as an authentic representative of the brand, or face turning off the customer (which might’ve been the case in Pretty Woman) And sales staff acting snobby didn’t help impressions of 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,” says Dahl.

He suggested that if you’re being treated rudely and don’t like it, you should leave and come back later. Or shop online, where you can only count on strangers to leave rude reviews.

Snobby staff can boost luxury retail sales [University of British Columbia]

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  1. GnRJosh says:

    The “Pretty Woman” example doesn’t work in this story. The saleswoman kicked Vivian out of the store, telling her to “Please leave!” She didn’t even get a chance to look at the wares before she was told to get out. It’s one thing to talk down and act high-and-mighty; it’s another to reprimand a potential customer for their appearance and then kick them out of your store.