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The differential treatment of women during service recovery: How perceived social power affects consumers’ postfailure compensation


  • Hill Cummings, Krista
  • Seitchik, Allison E.


Female consumers often experience marketplace discrimination in service encounters. Researchers have examined women’s differential treatment in many settings, but they have yet to study how women are treated during service-recovery encounters. We found evidence that male providers discriminated against female consumers during the service-recovery process in three experiments. Specifically, male providers offered less compensation to female consumers who complained after a failure than to male consumers who experienced the same failure. Further, we found that perceptions of consumer social power may explain this effect. We offer suggestions for how firms can identify internal marketplace gender discrimination, as well as how they can prevent and treat this significant problem. We also suggest that managers create anticipatory protocols and scripts and engage employees in both bias and interpersonal accuracy training.

Suggested Citation

  • Hill Cummings, Krista & Seitchik, Allison E., 2020. "The differential treatment of women during service recovery: How perceived social power affects consumers’ postfailure compensation," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 63(5), pages 647-658.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:bushor:v:63:y:2020:i:5:p:647-658
    DOI: 10.1016/j.bushor.2020.06.002

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ayres, Ian & Siegelman, Peter, 1995. "Race and Gender Discrimination in Bargaining for a New Car," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 304-321, June.
    2. Caitlin Knowles Myers & Marcus Bellows & Hiba Fakhoury & Douglas Hale & Alexander Hall & Kaitlin Ofman, 2010. "Ladies first? A field study of discrimination in coffee shops," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(14), pages 1761-1769.
    3. Laufer, Daniel & Coombs, W. Timothy, 2006. "How should a company respond to a product harm crisis? The role of corporate reputation and consumer-based cues," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 49(5), pages 379-385.
    4. Basil Halperin & Benjamin Ho & John List & Ian Muir, 2018. "Toward an understanding of the economics of apologies: evidence from a large-scale natural field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00644, The Field Experiments Website.
    5. Grégoire, Yany & Salle, Audrey & Tripp, Thomas M., 2015. "Managing social media crises with your customers: The good, the bad, and the ugly," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 173-182.
    6. Wise, Gordon L, 1974. "Differential Pricing and Treatment by New-Car Salesmen: The Effect of the Prospect's Race, Sex, and Dress," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(2), pages 218-230, April.
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