Functional Alibi

Spending money on luxuries often seems wasteful and decadent. We propose that adding a small utilitarian feature to a luxury product can serve as a functional alibi, justifying the indulgent purchase and reducing guilt. Six studies demonstrate that consumers overvalue features (or products) that serve as functional alibis. Such small utilitarian additions to hedonic luxuries are valued more than their standalone “objective” value since they provide additional utility from serving as a justification for the hedonic purchase. We show that this overvaluation of functional alibis is mediated by guilt, and is more likely to occur when the purchase seems wasteful and frivolous.


Anat Keinan , Ran Kivetz, and Oded Netzer (2009) ,"Functional Alibi", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 36, eds. Ann L. McGill and Sharon Shavitt, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 27-30.


Anat Keinan , Harvard Business School, USA
Ran Kivetz, Columbia University, USA
Oded Netzer , Columbia University, USA


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 36 | 2009

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