Big spenders enticed by snobby salespeople in luxury retail stores

"It appears that snobbiness might actually be a qualification worth considering for luxury brands like Louis Vuitton or Gucci," said marketing researcher Darren Dahl.
By Brooks Hays   |   April 29, 2014 at 12:50 PM
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia, April 29 (UPI) -- Apparently, the ruder the salesperson the more likely big spenders at luxury retail stores will fork over their money.

According to a new study by consumer researchers at the University of British Columbia, snobby salespeople boost sales at high-end retail stores.

The research shows a shopper given the cold shoulder while browsing for $3,000 handbags will be more likely to stay and purchase a pricy product.

"It appears that snobbiness might actually be a qualification worth considering for luxury brands like Louis Vuitton or Gucci," explained Darren Dahl, a professor of marketing at UBC. "Our research indicates they can end up having a similar effect to an 'in-group' in high school that others aspire to join."

Researchers came to their conclusions after surveying customers at high-end retailers who had been spurned or treated rudely -- whether in actuality or in their imaginations -- by sales representatives. Participants who were already desirous of luxury brands admitted to being increasingly keen to own the luxury products after poor treatment.

But rudeness is not an effective sales tactic in every situation. If the rude salesperson didn't appear to be an "authentic representative" of the brand, the effect was null and void. Furthermore, sales staff rudeness didn't help move mass-market brands off the shelves.

"Our study shows you've got to be the right kind of snob in the right kind of store for the effect to work," said Dahl.

What's more, the sales advantage of the rudeness treatment appears to diminish quickly. Two weeks after their experiences, customers who originally seemed to be turned on by their poor treatment reported a significantly decreased desire to purchase or own the specific luxury brand.

Dahl's study, which was aided by Morgan Ward of the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, will appear in the October edition of the Journal of Consumer Research.

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