Illegitimate returns as a trigger for customers’ ethical dissonance

Tali Seger-Guttmann, Iris Vilnai-Yavetz, Chen Ya Wang, Luca Petruzzellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigates the combined impact of customer merchandise return circumstances (legitimate or illegitimate) and service employee responses on customer outcomes (loyalty and ingratiation), through the lens of the ethical dissonance framework. Respondents (N = 916) were randomly divided among six experimental conditions in a 2 × 3 between-subjects design. As predicted, returns circumstances moderated the relationship between employee responses and customer outcomes: Despite employees’ angry response to delinquent customers, the latter's levels of loyalty toward the business as well as ingratiation toward the service employees were less damaged than in the case of normative customers exposed to the same employee angry response. This, we suggest, reflects an intention to quiet the dissonance on the part of the customers upon realizing that their delinquent behavior was evident to the service employee.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-131
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Retailing and Consumer Services
StatePublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • Customer ingratiation
  • Customer loyalty
  • Customer-related outcomes
  • Employees’ responses
  • Ethical dissonance
  • Fraudulent return

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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