Free perks and upgrades: Could they actually embarrass consumers?

Jun 18, 2013

Consumers may not enjoy receiving free perks or upgrades in public, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"Preferential treatment is often conferred in public settings. When preferential treatment is unearned rather than earned, the presence of other consumers who do not receive the same treatment can diminish satisfaction for the consumer receiving preferential treatment," write authors Lan Jiang (University of Oregon), JoAndrea Hoegg, and Darren W. Dahl (both University of British Columbia).

Preferential treatment (where only some consumers are given extra benefits) is common when traveling, shopping, or dining out. For example, a consumer might bypass airport check-in due to her frequent flyer status, win free groceries as the one-millionth customer at a supermarket, or receive a nicer room when checking into a hotel just because one happens to be available.

In one study, the authors set up a booth offering three free samples of . Some consumers were given extra samples and told this happened because they were loyal customers, while others received extra samples with no explanation. Other consumers were present when samples were distributed. Due to social discomfort, consumers were less satisfied with extra samples and also left the booth more quickly when there was no explanation and were present.

Companies should try to reach consumers privately when giving away rewards that aren't earned through effort or .

" is a critical issue that must be considered by companies considering a preferential treatment program. If companies want to employ preferential treatment practices in public settings for publicity purposes, they should ensure that this special treatment is earned through effort or loyalty and that the rationale is understood by all of their customers," the authors conclude.

Explore further: When perks don't work: Unearned upgrades embarrassing for consumers

More information: Lan Jiang, JoAndrea Hoegg, and Darren W. Dahl. "Consumer Reaction to Unearned Preferential Treatment." Journal of Consumer Research: October 2013.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Retailers should referee customer conflict

Jun 11, 2013

A new study by UBC's Sauder School of Business says retailers should consider admonishing queue jumpers and thoughtless store browsers to ease aggression between shoppers.

Advertising product results? Put images closer together

May 14, 2013

Consumers believe a product is more effective when images of the product and its desired outcome are placed closer together in advertisements, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Is the iPad Creative? It depends on who's buying it

Mar 05, 2013

Encouraging consumers to feel ownership of products they haven't yet purchased can backfire because consumers tend to see themselves in the products they own, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Clippers and coiners in 16th-century England

In 2017 a new £1 coin will appear in our pockets with a design extremely difficult to forge. In the mid-16th century, Elizabeth I's government came up with a series of measures to deter "divers evil persons" ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.