No Loyalty, No Voice, No Exit: Consumer Secondary Coping With Enslavement Relationships

Matthew Bunker, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
ABSTRACT - The purpose of this paper is to explore customers’ use of secondary coping strategies as developed by Rothbaum et al. (1982) within a consumer perceived monopoly context. A consumer perceived monopoly is defined as a single or dominant firm or organization that provides a single essential service. In addition, this paper compares customer perceived monopolies with actual enslavement in order to compare extreme situations of limited choice with lack of choice in the market place. The goal of this comparison is to find and explain consumer coping behaviors that could be overlooked otherwise.
[ to cite ]:
Matthew Bunker (2002) ,"No Loyalty, No Voice, No Exit: Consumer Secondary Coping With Enslavement Relationships", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, eds. Susan M. Broniarczyk and Kent Nakamoto, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 248.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, 2002     Page 248

NO LOYALTY, NO VOICE, NO EXIT: CONSUMER SECONDARY COPING WITH ENSLAVEMENT RELATIONSHIPS

Matthew Bunker, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

ABSTRACT -

The purpose of this paper is to explore customers’ use of secondary coping strategies as developed by Rothbaum et al. (1982) within a consumer perceived monopoly context. A consumer perceived monopoly is defined as a single or dominant firm or organization that provides a single essential service. In addition, this paper compares customer perceived monopolies with actual enslavement in order to compare extreme situations of limited choice with lack of choice in the market place. The goal of this comparison is to find and explain consumer coping behaviors that could be overlooked otherwise.

This research analyzes one aspect of the relationship between customers and a perceived monopoly. A perceived monopoly is defined as a single or dominant firm or organization that provides a single essential service. For example, a particular cable company may be the only cable provider in a geographical location, and consumers believe that subscribing to cable television is essential, and dropping the service would entail large costs for those consumers. The relationship aspect investigated by this research is dissatisfied consumers’ coping behaviors that seem to occur under a perceived monopoly context. Using the suggestion of Strauss and Corbin (1998), far-out comparisons are conducted in which service providers described as perceived monopolies are compared to other types of enslavement relationships, such as slavery and imprisonment. Although actual enslavement is an extremely serious human rights issue, comparing people’s enslavement experiences with perceived monopoly relationships is helpful to the extent that understanding coping behaviors under extreme hardships, may shed light on why consumers in monopoly situations use different coping behaviors than used in open market situations. Since high exit costs are a salient feature of enslavement relationships, consumers do not switch and may even quit complaining because representatives of a perceived monopoly do little to help the consumers when service failures occur. As a result, consumers engage in other coping strategies (other than switching and complaining), referred to as secondary control (Rothbaum 1982). A big similarity between actual enslavement (slavery) and perceived enslavement (exclusive ervice provider) is the use of secondary control behaviors in order to adapt to a negative situation. Different types of secondary control are then explored and categorized.

This research used grounded theory as explained by Strauss and Corbin (1998) in order to determine if there were any differences between perceived monopoly service relationships and open-market service relationships. Seventeen in-depth interviews were conducted, each of which lasted from a half-hour to one-and-a-half-hours. The respondents consisted of twelve males and five females from two different states in the midwestern area of the United States. The findings were then transcribed and coded according to major themes. Two of the major themes that emerged were powerlessness and the belief in personal control. Contrary to other research concerning powerlessness, these respondents stated that although they felt powerless, they still felt like they have some sense of personal control with the situation. This finding was further explored in the literature, and used secondary control proposed by Rothbaum et al. (1982).

Secondary control is defined, as coping behavior that occurs after primary control is unsuccessful. Instead of changing the environment, the customer is changing her or himself to adapt to the environment. The types of secondary control described in this paper are: predictive, illusory, vicarious, and interpretive, and are described below:

1) Predictive control is described as, "Situations in which people attempt to predict events so as to avoid disappointment." For example, a customer may not complain due to past failures with complaints.

2) Illusory control is described as attempts to associate outcomes with chance. For example, a service failure could be attributed to forces outside of the control of the service provider and the customer.

3) Vicarious control is an attempt to associate with powerful others; in this case a consumer would associate her or himself with a powerful company. For example, a customer may defend the actions of a service provider, even if those actions have negative consequences for the customer.

4) Interpretive control is an attempt to understand problems so as to derive meaning from them.

Although there are many different forms of secondary control, the four types mentioned above will be investigated in an attempt to begin categorizing consumer coping strategies that extend beyond behavioral coping strategies, such as switching and complaining, to include psychological coping strategies.

One implication for relationship marketing is that if perceived monopoly relationships, which are on going, are dissatisfactory for consumers, as described in the cases illustrated by this paper, when switching barriers are lowered, a very high rate of switching behavior may occur. For example, the research conducted for this paper has found that some customers may remember service failures for a very long time, and thus hold grudges, with the anticipation that competition will enter the market. This grudge may then be used as an excuse to switch service providers as a form of revenge when the opportunity arises. Although some literature has looked at the benefits of relationship marketing, marketers must remember that a service failure in an ongoing relationship that is perceived as a monopoly may have larger consequences than in situations in which the cusomer has viable choices.

REFERENCES

Struass, Anselm and Juliet Corbin (1998), Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Rothbaum, Fred, John R. Weisz, and Samuel S. Snyder (1982), "Changing the World and Changing the Self: A Two-Process Model of Perceived Control," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42 (1), 5-37.

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