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How do embarrassing service disruptions impact bystanders' word-of-mouth, complaining, and avoidance? The moderating role of self-construal
Ziegler, Alexander H.
Allen, Alexis M.
Norris, J. Ian
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Ziegler, A. H., Allen, A. M., Peloza, J., & Norris, J. I. (2023). How do embarrassing service disruptions impact bystanders' word-of-mouth, complaining, and avoidance? The moderating role of self-construal. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 1-17. https://doi.org/10.1002/cb.2266
In public settings such as retail, an embarrassed consumer may be witnessed by others. Thus, vicarious embarrassment may be even more ubiquitous than embarrassment itself. However, the impact of observers' individual characteristics on reactions to embarrassing service disruptions is not clear. To close this gap, the current research examines how observers' self-construal, or their perception of the self in relation to others, systematically alters observers' responses to embarrassing service disruptions. The data for this research was collected from 674 US respondents recruited amongst undergraduate students at a large North American university (study 1, $n$ = 193) and from an online subject panel (study 2, $n$ = 281 and study 3, $n$ = 200). Across all three experiments, the authors demonstrate that vicarious embarrassment is conditional on observers' self-construal. Specifically, the results demonstrate that observers with a predominantly interdependent self-construal experience stronger vicarious embarrassment than consumers with a predominantly independent self-construal. This occurs because they are more likely to take the actor's perspective. These differences manifest whether we operationalize self-construal as a measured individual difference or use a prime to induce self-construal situationally. Furthermore, observers with a predominantly interdependent self-construal alter their word-of-mouth, complaining, and avoidance intentions, effects mediated by perspective-taking and vicarious embarrassment. The current research contributes to theory and practice by introducing self-construal as a boundary condition to the vicarious embarrassment literature.
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