Snobby staff can boost luxury retail sales

When it comes to luxury brands, the ruder the sales staff the better the sales, according to new research from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.

The forthcoming Journal of Consumer Research study reveals that consumers who get the brush-off at a high-end retailer can become more willing to purchase and wear pricey togs.

“It appears that snobbiness might actually be a qualification worth considering for luxury brands like Louis Vuitton or Gucci,” says Sauder Marketing Professor Darren Dahl. “Our research indicates they can end up having a similar effect to an ‘in-group’ in high school that others aspire to join.”

For the study, participants imagined or had interactions with sales representatives – rude or not. They then rated their feelings about associated brands and their desire to own them. Participants who expressed an aspiration to be associated with high-end brands also reported an increased desire to own the luxury products after being treated poorly.

The effect only held true if the salesperson appeared to be an authentic representative of the brand. If they did not fit the part, the consumer was turned off. Further, researchers found that sales staff rudeness did not improve impressions of mass-market brands.

“Our study shows you’ve got to be the right kind of snob in the right kind of store for the effect to work,” says Dahl.

The researchers also found that improved impressions gained by rude treatment faded over time. Customers who expressed increased desire to purchase the products reported significantly diminished desire two weeks later.

Based on the study’s findings, Dahl suggests that, if consumers are being treated rudely, it’s best to leave the situation and return later, or avoid the interactions altogether by shopping online.

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Have a question? Let us know.


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6 thoughts on “Snobby staff can boost luxury retail sales”

  1. I am mortified that such a thing like bad attitude could actually sell in this day and age.Our world has become so modernized and with these improvements, people should still stay humble and respect others. whatever happened to Ubuntu?
    . When I enter a store i would like to be treated with respect and honour especially due to the fact that I’m purchasing an item from an elite outlet. If the staff treat me with disrespect and i accept it and buy more for that matter, it will clearly reveal how shallow and arrogant my character is. No matter how low-cost or affluent the store is arrogance or being snobbish should be UNACCEPTABLE!

  2. Snobbish salesman are bound to raise the sale especially of expensive goods because human beings have an urge to prove themselves once they have been looked down upon .
    However the parameters snobbish sales people can raise the sales as some people would
    rather go buy the goods somewhere else than be treated with such disrespect .
    I have personally have experienced that when a sales person treats me with disrespect , I am forced to buy something just to prove to them that I can afford their product .
    With my mother on the other hand , it is a completely different story , she does not tolerate any disrespect what so ever and would rather take her shopping somewhere else .
    I guess snobbiness of salesman only affects people that think themselves on a certain level in society and would have an urge to prove themselves.

  3. There’s nothing like the feeling one gets when one walks into an expensive clothing boutique and immediately feels the eyes of the sale persons staring you down. One immediately begins to feel uncomfortable and slightly inferior in the boutique environment. Why is it that the rudeness does not repel some customers from purchasing an item in that store but instead compels them more to make a purchase? As the previous comments stated, to make a point. What is the point? Simply, to fit in and feel better about ones self.

    I have had first hand experience with this topic. My mother and I walked into an expensive Italian shoe boutique ,slightly underdressed, with the intention of purchasing an item. Of course, we immediately caught the eyes of the sales persons who were not convinced that we were “suitable” customers to make a purchase there. The lady rudely told my mother and I to leave if we had no intention on making a purchase. Nevertheless, my mother still made a purchase despite the rudeness. The rudeness is a result of a brand trying to uphold its superior name by not associating itself with the “inferior”.

    One could agree and disagree with this argument. Only a few people would still be compelled to purchase an item in a store with rude service. On the contrary, most people would rather leave the store and make a similar purchase else where. Humans are more compelled to good and helpful service rather than snobbish service.

    Dahl’s quote, “Our study shows you’ve got to be the right kind of snob in the right kind of store for the effect to work”, sums up my view on this topic. The reason for the statistics to show a direct relationship between snobby service and sales could be that the customers themselves are “snobby” or of the higher class; meaning they are unaffected by the rude sale staff. I do not necessarily disagree that rudeness compels sales (I have been a victim of such) but I do however believe that most people would simply not make a purchase in a store with rude service.

    Brand stores should not consider this tactic for increasing sales because the chances for it to work are quite slim; especially with competing stores who might offer better service.

  4. The topic of this article immediately caught my eye, because I for one can’t stand it when a staff member of a high-end retail shop are being rude or snobbish towards you, when they actually have to promote the product and not (in a certain way) “chase away” their customers.

    After reading this article I can understand that the snobbish staff members could have a positive effect on their sales, based on the fact that a person’s reaction towards those snobbish behavior can differ. Some people will try to make a point and go back and buy the produc, while others will never go back and will even encourage friends and family to never buy from the particular store again.

    It is clear that the outcome of being a snobbish sales man can be either positive as well as negative. Therefore despite the research done and the results gain from it, I think that the effect of a snobbish staff member will still be murky, because the response a staff member will gain from the costumer will vary from one to another.

  5. I for one cannot believe that “snobbiness” is a trait that one should have to sell luxury products!!! I know the research shows and says otherwise, but I feel it is wrong!

    For example, if some staff member would want to sell me one of these luxury products and the person is giving me a snobbish attitude, i would most probably close the door in his/her face.

    But if one was polite and enthusiastic, I would be intrigued at most and I would want to know more about this luxury product. In the end I may buy this product!

  6. I found this article interesting and thought provoking in that I never imagined that snobbiness might actually be a qualification that luxury brand owners’ seek when hiring staff-members to sell their products. I just imagined that snobbiness was subjective to the individual and not a marketing strategy.

    I do agree with the statement “when it comes to luxury brands, the ruder the sales staff, the better the sales,” up to a certain extent. I have had the personal experience of being brushed off at a high-end retail shop. I believe that every human being has some level of self-dignity and that day, I felt it had been trampled on. So I made it a point to return to that store and purchase what I had desired to purchase in the first place, however this time, the desire was not only to attain the item but to prove the sales-person wrong. As well as to teach her a thing or two about “judging a book by its cover”.

    On the other hand, I have also observed the negative effects of snobbish sales-persons on the sales of products through a shopping experience with my mother. After feeling undermined by being brushed-off by a sails person at another high-end retail shop, my mother never went back to that specific shop. She sought to buy her desired items from another competing brand. Her argument was… “There’s more than a single place to purchase quality.”

    Essentially, I believe that hiring snobbish sales people can boost sales within the parameters as mentioned in the article: “You’ve got to be the right kind of snob in the right kind of store for the effect to work,” otherwise as the article mentioned, it’s just a turn-off and as my mom once said: “there’s more than a single place to purchase quality”.


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