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Investigating UK Consumers' Unethical Attitudes and Behaviours

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The UK annually spends ?450m on store security and crime prevention, which not only costs retailers, but also amounts to a hidden tax on those lawbinding consumers who bear higher retail prices. Little previous research has investigated how prevalent these misbehaviours are or the moral attitudes of consumers towards them. Despite the obvious implications for both buyers and sellers, most research has focused on the business ethics of the sellers or marketers. Using a hybrid of both qualitative and survey approaches (n = 240), this paper examines the structure and inter-relationship between consumers' ethical beliefs and aberrant behaviours. Many of the activities discovered were hidden frauds and the research developed an exploratory index of 50 unethical activities to assess the degree of UK consumers' aberrant behaviour. The most common were: 'taping a movie off the television', 'giving an unused car park ticket to a new user', 'receiving too much change and not saying anything', and 'lying about a child's age to get a price reduction'. Four main factors were found to have a significant influence in consumer's ethical decision making. These were: (1) the role played by the consumer; (2) the perceived illegality; (3) the perceived severity of consequence and a new factor, (4) the visibility of the behaviour. The paper argues that government, marketing practitioners and retailers should adopt pro-active rather than reactive measures to combat aberrant behaviour.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-02-01

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