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Competent or threatening? When looking like a “salesperson†is disadvantageous


  • Arndt, Aaron D.
  • Evans, Kenneth R.
  • Zahedi, Ziniya
  • Khan, Emmyrose


It is unclear why customers perceive some salespeople to be helpful and others to be threatening. Salesperson stereotypes are often considered negative and threatening; however, salesperson stereotypes may also be positive and professional. Based on the concepts of stereotype threat and compound stereotyping, this research proposes that customers form opinions about the threat posed by specific salespeople based on: (1) the extent to which they feel threatened by stereotypical salespeople in an industry, (i.e., stereotype threat), and then (2) the degree to which the salesperson's appearance matches customer stereotypes about salespeople for that industry. Salesperson stereotypes are viewed negatively when they elicit a stereotype threat in customers and viewed positively when they do not. This research investigates an alterable appearance characteristic, salesperson attire, and a fixed demographic characteristic, salesperson gender, using three experimental studies and a field study. When salespeople belong to a demographic that is considered threatening to a particular customer, they can wear less formal attire to avoid stereotype threat. When salespeople are not considered threatening, they should conform to salesperson stereotypes of professionalism.

Suggested Citation

  • Arndt, Aaron D. & Evans, Kenneth R. & Zahedi, Ziniya & Khan, Emmyrose, 2019. "Competent or threatening? When looking like a “salesperson†is disadvantageous," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 166-176.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joreco:v:47:y:2019:i:c:p:166-176
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jretconser.2018.11.012

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    References listed on IDEAS

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