The social dynamics of a luxury goods store can be weird. As we noted two months ago, dressing like a slob at a high-end shop impressed salespeople. That's because the employees assumed that only a rich person would have the confidence to dress that way in public without feeling ashamed.
Unfortunately, you did not wear your old sweatpants to the fancy clothing boutique. You wore simple slacks and a button-down shirt, so the you can feel the heavy eyes of the salespeople on you, judging you as riffraff that rolled in from the local Walmart. They're rude to you.
What is your response? According to a study that will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, you're more likely to buy expensive goods. That's because if the staff subtly tells you that you're not good enough, you may buy more in order to convince the staff that you really are high class. Dr. Darren Dahl of the University of British Columbia, the lead author of the article, explains:
"It appears that snobbiness might actually be a qualification worth considering for luxury brands like Louis Vuitton or Gucci," says Sauder Marketing Professor 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."
For the study, participants imagined or had interactions with sales representatives – rude or not. They then rated their feelings about associated brands and their desire to own them. Participants who expressed an aspiration to be associated with high-end brands also reported an increased desire to own the luxury products after being treated poorly.
The effect only held true if the salesperson appeared to be an authentic representative of the brand. If they did not fit the part, the consumer was turned off. Further, researchers found that sales staff rudeness did not improve 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.
-via Marginal Revolution