A Perception of Prejudice in Face-to-Face Retail Services: Comparative Analyses of Age, Gender, and Appearance

A Perception of Prejudice in Face-to-Face Retail Services: Comparative Analyses of Age, Gender, and Appearance

Mirian Palmeira (Information Resources Management Graduate Programme, Federal University of Parana–UFPR, Brazil), Denise Palmeira (P.P. & Mzee Ltd. Co., Curitiba, Brazil) and Cassia Maria dos Santos (Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Parana, Curitiba, Brazil)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/ijabe.2012100103
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Abstract

The aim of this study is to identify customers’ perception of prejudice related to age, gender and appearance in face-to-face retail services. The results, through quantitative research, Likert-scale process and simple statistics, show that young women (51.28%) and men (36.36%), and older men and women(68.42% women, 36.36% men) have perceived that well-dressed young female customer receive face-to-face retail services prior to everybody else if there is not a clear queuing process in the retail area, and almost both young women (48.72%) and men (48.48%) and the older groups (31.58% of the women and 63.64% of men) believe that a badly-dressed young man is the last to have the service. Retail companies should provide training to their staff to avoid behaviour that leads customers to believe that there is prejudice in the service process and develop a clear queuing system in the face-to-face retail service spatial environment.
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1. Introduction

The intense use of many types of technology makes the physical differences of products and services fade and they become very similar, almost commodities (Grönroos, 1990). Some examples are the food industry and restaurants, cars, computers, banking services, hospitals and clinics, schools and universities, just to mention some industries. The difference among them is the brand (Andrade, Palmeira, & Kato, 2010; Brakus, Schmitt, & Zarantonello, 2009). The competitive advantage that gives strength to the brand is linked to the excellence of the people who works for the organisation. And staff competence levels are the result of development, commitment and motivation (Lovelock & Wright, 2007, p. 408). The organisation should provide the environmental conditions that help the employees develop the necessary competences to provide a more suitable service with quality to customers and to other stakeholders. The understanding of this logic is apparently shared by academia and marketing executives. However, when someone pays attention to what is going on in the daily activities, especially in retail companies, where there is a continuing face-to-face contact with customers, he or she can realise that the logic of service quality excellence is not working the way it should be.

What is happening in a branch of an important British drugstore chain during the weekends when the head manager is not on duty? In the Brook Street branch, London-UK, for example, near Bond Street, an observer can see a very cheerful socialisation process among the staff, behaving as they were in their own homes, providing little attention to customers who cannot find an available employee to ask for advice. Moreover, one can see the clerk who attempts to give torn bank notes as change in a purchase. Or the clerk’s “apparent” lapse of memory to deactivate the security device alarm, causing the noise alert when the customer goes through the exit. A “plastic” apology and an insincere smile, and noisy laughter follow the customer as she leaves the store, but still observing all the laughing and giggling through the windows. There is also the case of the Italian restaurant on Cromwell Road, where the owners, husband and wife, almost knock the customer out just because she, the customer, insists on having a proper receipt for what she has paid for. Another case related to restaurants is that of a pizza restaurant that does not know how to prepare a buffalo cheese pizza! Or a bistro at Gloucester Arcade that closes at 11pm and the waiter tries to refuse to serve customers that have arrived at 10:40pm, telling them that the restaurant was already closed. But the customers talk to the manager and insist on being served. The manager agrees. Salads are ordered and, “what a coincidence,” they have been dressed with a hot spicy dressing. Still, there is the situation of the staff that works at weekends at the stores and supermarkets with gloomy faces, making no eye contact, looking tired and demotivated. And weekends are very special moments for selling and business! Who is to blame? The Credit crunch? The European Union? The Immigration? The foreigner workforce? Desperate needs to reduce costs? The head manager? The owner? The employees themselves? The customer? These are some examples of problems that occurred in London, in September 2010. Imagine what might be going on around the world?

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