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I’ll Be Watching You: Shoppers’ Reactions to Perceptions of Being Watched by Employees

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  • Esmark, Carol L.
  • Noble, Stephanie M.
  • Breazeale, Michael J.

Abstract

This research fills a gap in the retailing literature regarding the impact of shoppers’ perceptions of being watched while shopping for embarrassing products. Four studies consistently show that an employee watching a shopper can cause the shopper to either permanently or temporarily leave the shopping area as purchase intentions decrease. Reactance theory explains this relationship, which is mediated by consumers’ feelings of control over their own privacy. Essentially, when shoppers believe an employee is watching them, they feel less in control of their privacy, resulting in negative consequences for the retailer. This relationship is especially important for products that consumers may already feel some level of embarrassment over purchasing in the first place. The results have important theoretical implications for reactance theory by demonstrating that a consumer can regain control even when the original threat to behavior still exists. Additionally, increasing options that allow a consumer to regain control will reduce the overall reactance to the threat to privacy and will improve retailer outcomes. Practitioner recommendations present several techniques that allow the consumer to regain privacy control in spite of the sometimes necessary practice of watching in-store consumers.

Suggested Citation

  • Esmark, Carol L. & Noble, Stephanie M. & Breazeale, Michael J., 2017. "I’ll Be Watching You: Shoppers’ Reactions to Perceptions of Being Watched by Employees," Journal of Retailing, Elsevier, vol. 93(3), pages 336-349.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jouret:v:93:y:2017:i:3:p:336-349
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jretai.2017.04.005
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Esmark Jones, Carol L. & Barney, Christian & Farmer, Adam, 2018. "Appreciating Anonymity: An Exploration of Embarrassing Products and the Power of Blending In," Journal of Retailing, Elsevier, vol. 94(2), pages 186-202.
    2. Dhruv Grewal & Stephanie M. Noble & Anne L. Roggeveen & Jens Nordfalt, 2020. "The future of in-store technology," Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Springer, vol. 48(1), pages 96-113, January.
    3. Debora Dhanya Amarnath & Uma Pricilda Jaidev, 2021. "Toward an integrated model of consumer reactance: a literature analysis," Management Review Quarterly, Springer, vol. 71(1), pages 41-90, February.

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