Deviance and Dissatisfaction: an Exploratory Study

Michael K. Mills, University of Southern California
ABSTRACT - This paper reports the results of an exploratory study which tested the notion that the power of a retail store would directly influence both the level of consumer dissatisfaction and the incidence of deviant consumer acts occurring in that store. The results support the hypothesized relationships.
[ to cite ]:
Michael K. Mills (1981) ,"Deviance and Dissatisfaction: an Exploratory Study", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 08, eds. Kent B. Monroe, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 682-686.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 8, 1981      Pages 682-686

DEVIANCE AND DISSATISFACTION: AN EXPLORATORY STUDY

Michael K. Mills, University of Southern California

ABSTRACT -

This paper reports the results of an exploratory study which tested the notion that the power of a retail store would directly influence both the level of consumer dissatisfaction and the incidence of deviant consumer acts occurring in that store. The results support the hypothesized relationships.

INTRODUCTION

The recent wave of consumerism and the available literature indicate that consumer dissatisfaction is quite widespread. Much of this dissatisfaction occurs at the retail level (cf. Valle and Wallendorf 1977, Miller 1976, Kraft 1977, Krishnan and Mills 1978, Bearden and Mason 1979), and may subsequently be directed at retail stores in the form of various "deviant consumer behaviors" occurring in the retail context (cf. Mills 1979 for a review of the deviant consumer behavior problem).

The research presented in this paper utilized the notions of power theory as these may apply to explaining the link between consumer dissatisfaction and the incidence of deviant consumer behavior in retail stores. The basic notion that was tested in this study was that the power of a retail store (as perceived by the customer) would directly influence both the level of consumer dissatisfaction with that store and the incidence of deviant consumer behavior occurring therein.

Evidence from previous empirical work would tend to support the contention that the power context (image) of a store influences the degree of customers' deviant acts. In several studies (Kraut 1976, Robin 1963) highly ranked reasons given for shoplifting included the fact that the person wanted to get back at the store, had political motives, or felt shoplifting was acceptable.

Power is implicated further by a second factor that shows that most shoplifting and other deviant consumer behavior is done by juveniles (Cohen and Stark 1974), the "weaklings" of adult society. Further, rebellion, alienation, and powerlessness are important reasons given by apprehended juveniles for their deviant behavior (Pedrini 1972, Thall 1973).

The effects of store image and attitudes held toward a store as they affect the level of consumer satisfaction have also been explored, though not with respect to either deviance or power preceptions (cf. Swan 1977), but the extrapolation is a fairly intuitive one.

Thus, based on the literature and a seemingly sensible theoretical extrapolation, this study was an attempt to answer the following hypotheses.

H1: The greater the customer's perceptions of power differences between store and customer, the greater will be the incidence of deviant consumer behavior as a counterpower move by consumers.

H2: The greater the consumer's perceptions of power differences between store and consumer, the lower will be the level of consumer satisfaction.

H3: There will be a significant relationship between the level of consumer satisfaction with regard to retail power contexts and to the incidences of deviant consumer acts occurring in those stores.

METHODOLOGY

A usable sample of 153 retail shoppers, gathered through mall and similar interventions, responded to a written survey instrument which featured seven scenarios of retail stores representing one or another type of retail outlet, randomly arranged, and which corresponded to retail power types as classified by the Bonoma (1976) power theory. (See Mills and Bonoma 1979 for pretests of the methodology.)

The Bonoma (1976) theory identifies three prototypical power systems that occur in everyday socio-cultural contexts, and which form a kind of "power continuum." The unilateral power system is characterized by a strong versus weak relationship among the interactive partners, by its focus on target compliance, and by the existence of conflict over scarce resources or mutually exclusive behavioral preferences. The mixed or bargaining power system falls between the unilateral and the group welfare (bilateral) power systems. Bargaining as an influence mode is used to determine outcomes, because force or rewards are not generally or effectively used between equals. The bilateral or group welfare system is characterized by a kind of social altruism as the determining mechanism of exchange.

Thus a "power continuum" ranging from high (unilateral) to low (group welfare) is formed by these three social systems, which seem to have their equivalents in retail settings--as operationalized in the scenarios. For example, the scenario for store A--a unilateral department store, read as follows:

Store A is a large, "prestige" department store in the downtown area. It occupies 200,000 square feet and nine floors of its own building. Store A aims its marketing efforts primarily at the upper-middle income ranges. Its pricing structure is rather high; it is "known" for its clothes and furniture. Significant sales and discounts are only infrequently offered. Store A has its own credit cards and maintains a strict credit policy. Parking is difficult; a parking rebate is offered to buying customers.

The scenario for store A, like all scenarios, was accompanied by a 5 x 7 inch black and white photograph of the store interior.

For each scenario, respondents were asked to anonymously self-report both the extent and types of their own deviant consumer behavior within these various retail power contexts, and were asked as well to report how likely they felt it was that relevant others would engage in these acts. [Several previous researchers have submitted convincing evidence for the use of the self-report methodology in deviance studies (cf. Hirschi 1972, p. 57-64, Short and Nye 1957, Wilkes 1978). Projective "third person techniques'' (Tull and Hawkins 1976) have a long history of use in marketing studies (cf. Haire 1950, Hill 1968).] Respondents were also asked to indicate their general level of satisfaction/dissatisfaction at the retail level for each of the store "power types" and completed a full demographic profile.

Measures of Interest and Operationalization

Measurement of the dependent variables of perceived store power and the incidence of deviance was essentially identical to that used in earlier pilot tests (Mills and Bonoma 1979).. Each scenario was followed by a list of fifteen questions, broken up into three types. The store-power manipulation check section asked five questions about the perceived power of the store depicted in the scenario as viewed by the subject. Following from the power theory base, the five questions asked whether the store made too much money, whether the store was very powerful relative to the respondent, whether there was a lot of conflict between the store depicted in the scenario and the respondent, whether the respondent could influence what was stocked in this type of store, and if the respondent had been treated wrongly in that store, whether he or she could effectively communicate with someone about it. The coding scheme for the manipulation check was a Likert scale varying from one to five in the theoretically dictated direction, except for the questions pertaining to whether the subject could influence what was stocked in the store, or could communicate with someone if they were treated wrongly in the store context, which were reverse scored. The five manipulation check measures were added to get a summary index for each respondent on each scenario.

The remaining questions were concerned with the incidence of five deviant consumer acts, including destroying or damaging merchandise, fraudulent merchandise returns, shoplifting, vandalism, and fraudulent complaints. The questions were asked in two different ways. One set of questions asked whether the subject had engaged in these actions. The other set of questions asked how likely subjects thought it would be that "someone" would engage in the behaviors so described. Both sets of "deviance" questions used a five-point Likert scale which ranged from (1) very unlikely (never) to (5) very likely (always).

These "self" and "other" questions were included for an express purpose. It was felt that subjects' self-reporting of deviance would likely be understated. On the other hand, it was regarded as quite likely that subjects would endorse that a relevant other might engage in such behaviors. The "self" questions described above were combined to form a summary index variable which could range from five (all "never") to 25 (all "always"). The "someone" questions were also summed to form a composite variable varying from five (all "very unlikely") to 25 (all "very likely").

The measure of consumer satisfaction was the subject's responses to questions inquiring about the level of satisfaction from shopping at each of the store types, and was measured on a five point Likert scale ranging from five (always satisfied)to one (never satisfied) for each store.

RESULTS

Frequency of Deviant Acts

Table 1 shows, for each of the five deviant acts investigated in the study, the average percentage of sample respondents who self-reported that they always, very often, sometimes, frequently, or never commit these acts. As is evident from Table 1, the relative percentages of individuals in each category are quite consistent across acts. Examination of the table shows further that the percentage of individuals who always or-very often engage in these deviant acts is quite small, although it should be noted that the average percentage figures shown here are quite consistent with previous sampling estimates of the percentages of individuals engaging in each activity.

Table 2 shows the percentage breakdowns for dissatisfied consumers. As is evident from Table 2, the average percentage of dissatisfied consumers who engage in each of the deviant acts is higher than that for the entire sample population.

TABLE 1

PERCENT OF SAMPLE POPULATION ENGAGING IN SPECIFIC DEVIANT CONSUMER ACTS

TABLE 2

PERCENT OF DISSATISFIED RESPONDENTS ENGAGING IN SPECIFIC DEVIANT CONSUMER ACTS

Manipulation Check

Table 3 shows the results for the manipulation check (power variable). A repeated measures analysis of variance run, with Scheffe (1953) comparisons, was done on the data. As shown in Table 3, the manipulation check was successful. The overall F-test computed on the summary of the five manipulation check questions yielded a highly significant value of 84.45, reliable at the .001 level. Individual Scheffe (1953) comparisons--made considering all store types, department stores only, and across different store types--were all significant at the .01 level. (The "Big Chicken" test, also successful at the .01 level, pitted two equally large but "power different" department stores against each other to test an alternative notion, suggested by a colleague that store "size" and not power was the important dimension.) Thus the manipulations were all significant in the direction predicted by the theory. That is, consumers' perceptions of unilateral, bargaining, and bilateral store scenarios was such that they represented a "power continuum" ranging from high (unilateral) to low (bilateral).

TABLE 3

RESULTS ON MANIPULATION

Hypothesis One

Tables 4 and 5 show the results for the levels of deviance reported that formed the basis for testing Hypothesis One. To save space, only the "someone" (Table 4) results will be discussed here (the "self" results, while not as strong as the "someone" results, generally confirm the hypothesis in question). As shown in Table 4 the overall F-test yielded a highly significant value of 55.19, reliable at the .0001 level. Planned comparisons made for all stores considered, within department stores only, and across retail outlets were all significant in the direction predicted by the theory at the .01 level, with the exception of the across retailers-bargaining versus bilateral comparisons. The "Big Chicken" comparison, while in the direction predicted by the theory, was nonsignificant.

Thus, Hypothesis One was confirmed. The data showed that more powerful stores, as measured by the composite store power index, were felt likely to have a greater incidence of deviant consumer acts committed in them than less powerful stores. We turn now to the test of Hypothesis Two.

TABLE 4

"SOMEONE" RESULTS

TABLE 5

"SELF" RESULTS

Hypothesis Two

Table 6 shows the results for the test of Hypothesis Two. Once again a repeated measures analysis of variance was performed on the data, with the resulting overall F-test yielding a highly significant value of 9.86, reliable at the .001 level. Planned comparisons performed on the means yielded somewhat mixed results, however.

TABLE 6

RESULTS ON SATISFACTION

As shown in Table 6, for the overall comparisons one significant relationship was noted, but it is a direction contrary to the hypothesized relationship. However, significant results were seen when consumers' mean levels of satisfaction were considered with respect to department stores only. Here, the direction of all comparisons was in harmony with the hypothesized relationship and was statistically significant as well. Across retailers, however, two significant, but directionally not predicted, results were seen. Finally, the "Big Chicken" test was significant at the .01 level in the direction predicted by the theory. Additionally, it is quite apparent that, across all store types, customers' mean levels of satisfaction with these stores was quite low.

Thus, the test of Hypothesis Two yielded somewhat mixed results. A possible explanation for these results may be rooted in the nature of the comparisons made, as well as in the nature of the store types themselves. That is, significant findings in the direction of the hypothesized relationships were noted in both the within department stores only and the "Big Chicken" tests. These comparisons were of similar types of retail outlets (i.e., department stores), rather than of differing types, and hence these comparisons may be more indicative of the phenomena under investigation. It remains for additional research to resolve this issue.

Hypothesis Three

Table 7 shows the results for the correlational analysis that was used as the statistical test of Hypothesis Three. As shown in Table 7, there is the expected negative relationship between the level of shopping satisfaction in each of the stores and the incidence of deviant acts committed in those stores. However, the size of the correlation coefficients is quite small, albeit statistically significant in three instances, and hence some caution is required in interpreting these results.

TABLE 7

CORRELATIONS BETWEEN SHOPPING SATISFACTION IN STORE AND DEVIANCE IN STORE

CONCLUSION

This study was an attempt to examine the possible relationship between perceived power of a retail store, consumer dissatisfaction, and deviant consumer behavior in retail stores. The results seem to indicate that stores perceived as more powerful by the consumer have higher levels of deviant consumer behavior occurring in them and, at least in some instances, have lower reported levels of consumer satisfaction than less powerful stores. Further, it appears that there is a relationship between the level of consumer satisfaction with a store and the incidence of deviant consumer behavior committed against that store.

While some caution is necessary in interpreting these results given the exploratory nature of the study (and because of the small sizes of the correlation coefficients) the results are, nonetheless, interesting and point the way towards additional research in this area. This is particularly true with regard to further tests of the importance of power perceptions on consumer dissatisfaction. While some attempt has been made by Valle and Wallendorf (1977) and others to bring theory to the question of consumer dissatisfaction and complaining behavior, it appears likely that power theory may shed some new light in this area (as well as on the question of consumer deviance). It is the author's hope that this study will serve as an impetus to more research in these and related areas.

REFERENCES

Bearden, W. O. and Mason, J. B. (1979), "Elderly Use of In-Store Information Sources and Dimensions of Product Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction," Journal of Retailing, 55(1), 79-91.

Bonoma, T. V. (1976), "Conflict, Cooperation and Trust in Three Power Systems," Behavioral Science, 21, 499-514.

Cohen, L. and Stark, R. (1974), "Discriminatory Labeling and the Five Finger Discount," Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 2(1), 25-39.

Haire, M. (1950), "Projective Techniques in Marketing Research," Journal of Marketing, 14, 649-656.

Hill, C. R. (1968), "Haire's Classic Instant Coffee Study --18 Years Later," Journalism Quarterly, 45, 466-472.

Hirschi, T. (1972), Causes of Delinquency, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 57-64.

Kraft, F. B. (1977) "Characteristics of Consumer Complainers and Complaint and Repatronage Behavior," in Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, ed. Ralph L. Day, Bloomington: Indiana University, 79-84.

Krishnan, S. and Mills, M. K. (1978), "Dissatisfaction with Retail Stores and Repatronage Behavior." Paper presented at the Third Annual Conference on Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior.

Kraut, R. E. (1976), "Deterrent and Definitional Influences on Shoplifting," Social Problems, 23(3), 356-358.

Miller, J. A. (1976) "Store Satisfaction and Aspiration Theory," Journal of Retailing, 52(3), 65-84.

Mills, M. K. (1979), A Power Contextual Analysis of Deviant Consumer Behavior in Retail Stores, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh.

Mills, M. K. and Bonoma, T. V. (1979), "Deviant Consumer Behavior: New Challenge for Marketing Research," Proceedings, American Marketing Association, Annual Mar= keting Educators' Conference.

Pedrini, D. T. (1972)," Psychology and the Problems of Shoplifting." Paper presented at the Midwest Section of the American Business Association Conference.

Robin, G. (1963), "Patterns of Department Store Shoplifting," Crime and Delinquency, 9, 163-172.

Scheffe, H. (1953), "A Method for Judging All Contrasts in the Analysis of Variance," Biometrika, 40, 87-104.

Short, J. F. and Nye, F. I. (1957), "Reported Behavior as a Criterion of Deviant Behavior," Social Problems, 5, 207-213.

Swan, J. E. (1977), "Consumer Satisfaction with a Retail Store Related to the Fulfillment of Expectations on an Initial Shopping Trip," in Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, ed. Ralph L. Day, Bloomington: Indiana University, 10-17.

Thall, M. M. (1973), Behavioral Components of Adolescent Shoplifting, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.

Tull, D. S. and Hawkins, D. I. (1976), Marketing Research: Meaning, Measurement and Method, New York: MacMillan.

Valle, V. and Wallendorf, M. (1977), "Consumer Attributions of the Cause of Their Product Satisfaction and Dissatisfaction," in Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, ed. Ralph L. Day, Bloomington: Indiana University, 26-30.

Wilkes, R. (1978), "Fraudulent Behavior by Consumers," Journal of Marketing, 42(4), 67-75.

----------------------------------------