Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Avoiding Embarrassment

Ever bought an embarrassing product at the supermarket, and crossed your fingers at the checkout hoping the cashier will not give you a weird look? Many people are faced with the dilemma of wanting to purchase a rather embarrassing product, but not wanting to be judged for it. What is their solution? One option which consumers have turned to is filling up their cart with other non-embarrassing merchandise to offset the embarrassing items. The idea is that the cashier will spread their attention amongst all of the items in the shopping cart, rather than focus on the one single embarrassing item, if the cart were empty.

This solution might sound a bit absurd, especially considering the fact that the customer will most likely never see the cashier again. However, it is human nature that we do not like feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed, regardless of the environment or the people present. Also, most people have a public identity that they want to keep positive. The fact that they are purchasing an embarrassing item, could tarnish their pubic identity, even if it is merely the cashier judging them.

Another solution to buying an embarrassing item is to wait until no other shoppers are present before approaching the item on the shelf. Even if other shoppers might be getting the same item, consumers prefer to just wait until they are alone in an aisle to put the item in their cart. Another experiment tested how consumers felt about purchasing not only an embarrassing product, but also other products that might seem embarrassing when purchased at the same time. For example, would a consumer be more embarrassed to purchase condoms along with a box of tissues and a bottle of lotion, rather than just condoms alone? The experiment showed that consumers would indeed be more embarrassed to purchase additional complimentary items to the already embarrassing product.

Even though embarrassing situations can be amusing at times, consumers do not find amusement in having to purchase an embarrassing item. The studies conducted prove that even if the customer feels slightly embarrassed, he will change his actions to attempt to not feel as bad. Obviously there are different methods which shoppers use to avoid an awkward eye stare from other shoppers or from the cashier at the cash register. The most common method is to purchase additional items that are not in any way embarrassing or that could affect your public identity in a negative manner.

Balancing the Basket: The Role of Shopping Basket Composition in Embarrassment
Sean Blair and Neal J. Roese
Journal of Consumer Research , Vol. 40, No. 4 (December 2013), pp. 676-691
Article DOI: 10.1086/671761
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/671761

1 comment:

  1. great post. consumers refuse to purchase products that make themselves embarrassed when someone else is around them. Such as condoms, Chinese people are not open as American, they will only buy the condoms when no one is around them, and when they check out the condoms, they are afraid to face the cashier.