Negative Consumer Behavior What is negative consumer behavior and what are the characteristics of a bad customer? How can managers address this issue to ensure success?

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Negative Consumer Behavior

To fully understand what negative consumer behavior is and what makes a bad customer, we first have to understand what "consumer behavior" is. In their book, "Consumer Behavior: Concepts and Strategies," Berkman and Gilson (1981) say that the American Cultural System, which is made of values and artifacts, strongly influences consumer activity in the United States. "In the twentieth century, American Culture reflected a distinct consumption ethic based upon affluence and gratification of desires through material acquisition" (Berkman and Gilson, 1981). Consumer Behavior is defined as "the activities of people engaged in actual or potential use of market items-whether products, services, retail environments, or ideas" (Berkman and Gilson, 1981).

Thus, there are unlimited types of behaviors that the consumers can exhibit making it difficult to distinguish between good and bad consumer behavior. Sometimes, a consumer behavior that maybe considered negative in one market place can be considered positive in another. Shoplifting for example. "Some 800,000 times a day, this tableau of temptation, fear and exhilaration plays out in the humdrum aisles of department stores and supermarkets" (Adler, 2002). Shoplifting without a doubt is a type of negative consumer behavior since this behavior costs department stores and supermarket thousands of dollars every day. Yet in the February 25, 2002 "Newsweek" article written by Jerry Adler, Brandy Samson, the manager of a jewelry and accessories store in the Sherman Oaks California Fashion Square, sees shoplifting in a positive way by using it to understand what it is that the consumers want. She continued to say "We know what's hot among teens by seeing what they steal" (Adler, 2002).

Though shoplifting has negative effects for one type of market it is a positive consumer behavior in another like the security and protection market. The rise in shoplifting incidents will lead storeowners to increase their spending on security devices like cameras and sensor tags for clothing. Kelly Barron, the author of the article "Your money or your life? Crime rates are down. Are Americans overspending for security?" says that even though crime rates have been decreasing over the past years, revenues in the security business are on the rise. "Americans keep buying more and more protection. Revenues for the security industry have risen 46% over the past five years, to an estimated $57 billion" (Barron, 1997).

The vast increase of credit card use has given birth to yet another type of this complex consumer behavior that can be categorized as the compulsive buyers. In their study, James A. Roberts and Eli Jones, say that "the consumer culture is defined as a culture in which the majority of consumers avidly desire, pursue, consume, and display goods and services that are valued for non-utilitarian reasons, such as status (power), envy provocation, and pleasure seeking" (2001). Such behavior has both positive and negative outcomes. In one hand, the rise of consumer spending increases revenues for certain goods and services. In the other hand, the same behavior increases debt. "For the first three month of 1999, consumer spending increased at an annualized rate of 6.7 percent. Purchases of durable goods, non-durable goods, and services all registered healthy gains. During the same period, savings reached an all-time low of -0.5 percent" (Roberts and Jones, 2001).

Roberts and Jones noted in their study that past research shows that credit cards facilitate spending and that college students were found to spend more at a given store if the store accepted credit cards as a mode of payment. It was also noted that such compulsive buying activities was a significant reason for the large number of credit card debt and personal bankruptcy filings. Roberts and Jones acknowledge that earlier studies have found that students with high debt earn lower grades, and have higher...
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