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Deviant customer behaviour: A study of techniques of neutralisation

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A number of recent studies argue that consumer misbehaviour is common and representative of consumer behaviour overall. Concurrently, a number of leadings scholars have found that consumers employ a number of cognitive techniques of neutralisation to justify or rationalise their behaviour. However, existing studies that explore these two issues in conjunction typically focus on a single form of consumer misbehaviour (e.g. shoplifting). The aim of the current paper is to investigate the extent to which the techniques of neutralisation used by service consumers vary across different forms of deviant consumer behaviour. After providing an overview of extant research into deviant consumer behaviour and of research into the techniques of neutralisation, we detail our methodology. Thereafter, we present our findings to reflect the five forms of deviant consumer behaviour that were most consistently identified by informants (property abuses, verbal abuses during service, post-service negative word of mouth, dishonest actions, and sexual exploitation). The findings reveal that consumers employ various techniques of neutralisation to rationalise or justify their behaviour, leading to the forwarding of 12 propositions. After a discussion of the implications of the study for theorists and practitioners, we conclude the paper with a discussion of the limitations of the study, while highlighting a series of potentially fruitful avenues of future research.

Keywords: consumer misbehaviour; deviant behaviours; deviant consumer behaviour; deviant consumers; techniques of neutralisation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Warwick Business School, UK 2: Cardiff Business School, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2011

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