Consumer Embarrassment Effects on Shopping Basket Size | Free Essay Example

Consumer Embarrassment Effects on Shopping Basket Size

Words: 2527
Topic: Business & Economics


The paper provides a critical review on a journal authored by Nichols, Raska, and Flint (2015). The authors conducted a millennial customer research on the impact of buyer humiliation on volume and worth. This journal was based on how millennial and non-millennial clients were affected by their emotional impacts of humiliation on retail businesses. The article has significantly highlighted how consumers cope with emotions of shame when buying commodities at a given retail enterprise.

The article presents emotional wellbeing as an element that influences customers’ composition of purchase. However, this claim is questionable since most customers are susceptible to emotional embarrassment because of their economic or lifestyle. When they are humiliated, they seem to devise a strategy to mask such feelings. For example, a customer may opt to buy more goods in an attempt to hide an item that he or she feels is it embarrassing to him or her in case a public scrutiny is done. On the other hand, retail operators are currently striving to solve such problems by ensuring that they place the embarrassing products next to complement or adjacent products once they have anticipated the likelihood of client discomfiture.


The most important aspect that influences consumers’ purchasing style is their behaviour. Consumer conduct is shaped by psychological activities that dictate how the buyer recognises needs, develops a means of solving such needs, and/or makes buying decisions. The psychological processes enable such a person to not only plan wisely but also implement such plans when purchasing items (Durante et al. 2011).

The journal presented by Nichol, Raska, and Flint emphasises emotional embarrassment as a determinant of consumers’ buying behaviour. Such behaviour helps them to mask any embarrassment that is brought about by lower quality products. It also reduced clients’ susceptibility of being embarrassed because they can access complementary products (Nichols, Raska, & Flint 2015). Furthermore, emotional embarrassment ensures that consumers buy products that provide a counterbalance to the uncomfortable product. The researchers assert that millennials can embrace behaviour modification when responding to embarrassment as compared to the non-millennials. A critical point that lacks a clear elaboration in the article is consumer behaviour, which is the basis of argument in this critical essay.

Analysis of the Journal

Aims of the Authors

Nichols, Raska, and Flint (2015) conducted three different studies of which the first one was an exploratory research whose aim was to highlight how millennials deal with circumstances of emotional discomfiture when purchasing goods. The second study was an empirical research that was aimed at measuring the importance of the masking behaviour as evidenced by an analysis of the effect of embarrassment on the shopping volume and worth. The third study aimed at elaborating how client differences influence their shopping outcome. The authors succeed in presenting their aim. Psychologically based behaviour influences consumers’ purchasing process.

Numerous factors such as pressure, information, and the available choices control the behaviours of different consumers. It is strategy for the authors to analyse the notion that consumers’ masking behaviour is one of the influencers of purchasing, especially when they anticipate that they will be embarrassed. The results that clients expect after consuming a product are fashioned in a manner that they are desirable to their users.

According to Nichols, Raska, and Flint (2015), the most selling products exceed the expectations of consumers. Therefore, in the advertising process, the article shows how marketers strive to give out a clear desired end state of a product, although this strategy does not dictate the consumers’ emotional condition, especially when the product is of low quality.

Relationship of the Article and other works in the Field of Consumer Behaviour

Some of the similar relationships that the article has with literary researches include clients’ emotional status and its influence on impulse buying. Affective state of mind has been noted to trigger the purchase of more items. A research conducted by Park, Kim, and Funches (2012) indicates that impulsive buyers are more sensitive to their emotions compared to those who purchase few items at ago. Another research conducted by Bono and Ilies (2006) indicates that consumers who do excessive purchase of products are largely influenced by their emotions and moods, regardless of whether their sensation is positive or negative.

This claim confirms the current result highlighted in the article whereby the first study indicated that most respondents were emotionally embarrassed while about 50 percent of the respondents had to use masking behaviour to avoid the discomfiture. Such masking behaviours included purchasing of other products to hide the embarrassing items.

Gender is also an aspect that is mentioned in the article. Men and women do shopping, although women shop frequently relative to their male counterparts. This buying behaviour about women makes them more susceptible to spend more money for more items in one basket. Research conducted by Bakewell and Mitchell (2006) gives a similar result whereby more women than men are frequently engaging in unplanned shopping. Result from the first study indicated that about 25 percent of women not only experienced emotional humiliation when buying a product but also demonstrated a masking behaviour to avoid the embarrassing incident.

The purchase of several items in one basket is normally exhibited in shopping malls and supermarkets where people interact during the buying process. For instance, women do their unplanned purchases in grocery and health care clinics where they find it more comfortable to purchase the embarrassing goods. Bakewell and Mitchell’s (2006) results are similar to Nichols, Raska, and Flint’s (2015) work that confirms that the places where people buy masking goods include groceries, personal care, and feminine care, and sexual health centres.

Analysis of hypotheses brings about limited information to understand factors that influence consumer purchase behaviour. For example, Nichols, Raska, and Flint’s (2015) hypothesis elaborated the number of items that a consumer purchases in a basket. They claim that the size of basket is usually larger for customers who purchase an embarrassing product compared to those who do not purchase the same item. Even though the idea touches on a psychological aspect when a consumer is determining his or her purchase plans, emotion alone cannot be quantified as a determinant of purchase decision. The purchasing act is controlled by consumers’ behaviours, which involve several factors, including their health (Krishen 2015).

Customers do not incur more expenses on items due to emotional embarrassment but rather due to their impulsive buying. Bakewell and Mitchell (2006) mention that procuring many items arises from impulse buying that is caused by many factors, which differ from every consumer. Verhagen and van Dolen (2011) affirm that too much purchase of items is fuelled by consumers’ internal dynamics but not the physical characteristics of products being bought. Although this idea may link emotional embarrassment to too much purchasing of items, factors such as excitement, distress, helplessness, and being unable to have self-control may dictate the purchasing of many items in one basket (Vohs et al. 2014). Excessive emotion-linked purchasing may be fuelled by factors such as pleasure but not embarrassment (Sharma, Sivakumaran, & Marshall 2010).

Upon further analysis of this first hypothesis, it is clear that being embarrassed is a negative aspect of emotion that gives way to impulse buying. Such a buying behaviour is based on one’s perception as elaborated by Tangney and Dearing (2002) who confirm that customers who have negative moods tend to incur impulse purchase as a way of getting rid of such dispositions but not a strategy for masking embarrassment. Purchasing many items in a basket can also arise when a consumer’s desire to buy items exceeds his or her resistance to buy (Yi & Baumgartner 2011, Kim & Mattila 2010). Customers in such a dilemma tend to be involved in impulse buying. Therefore, Nichols, Raska, and Flint (2015) do not exhaust other options that lead to the purchase of more items in a basket. They only narrowed their research on limited variables.

The aspect of culture as a source of excessive purchase and emotional embarrassment has also not been addressed in the article presented by Nichol and colleagues. Culture portrays a consumer as either individualistic or as one who embraces collectivism. Most customers normally associate themselves with family members, workers, and friends. In most cases, they derive their motivation from the underlying norms and values (Kacen & Lee 2002; Picca & Joos 2009). In most cases, collectivists shop together as a way of curbing embarrassment when purchasing goods. On the other hand, needs, preferences, and rights motivate individualists’ purchasing plans. This class of people prioritises its personal developments. Such people demonstrate impulse buying (Kacen & Lee 2002).

Personality is also an aspect that may also attract too much buying. Most customers who are fond of too much buying in one basket do so as a strategy of reacting against stress or lack self-control. Such people normally have negative emotions and hence easily embarrassed. Therefore, they tend to buy more commodities in the same basket. People who demonstrate self-control are sensible, careful, and plan well for purchasing activities. Emotional embarrassment because of lack of self-control, being irrational, and carelessness among others may lead to too much purchasing of items (Poddar, Donthu, & Wei 2009).

Traits that might bring about emotional embarrassment have not been highlighted in the article. On the contrary, information presented in the article concerning the impact of customer discomfiture on shopping basket volume and worth by Nichol and colleagues portray numerous relationships to other literary works.

Even though this work was based on consumer behaviour, specifically emotional embarrassment as an influencer to item purchase, it can be noted that various factors should have been considered when embracing consumer behaviour other than being limited to the negative emotional aspect. The design of the study conducted created a limitation on the products that are associated with embarrassment when purchased by consumers. For instance, the specified items were only related to health, feminine care, digestion, and weight loss. The selection of the products should have been from various locations where many people meet.

The approach that was used for the Research

The study followed a qualitative research approach that involved the examination of three studies. The first part involved an exploratory study that was designed to provide insights to consumers, especially the behaviours that mask emotional embarrassment when shopping among the millennials. The second study was an empirical examination of millennials’ participation in masking behaviours.

This study was specifically designed to examine the anticipated degree of embarrassment that consumers go through when purchasing personal care products. This second study was also used as a control experiment that aimed at testing the impact of embarrassment on the volume and value of the shopping container. The last study followed a qualitative approach. It clarified on the issue of the basket size and value against the complementary and counterbalancing items. It drew a comparison between millennial and non-millennial customers in terms of their buying patterns. Overall, the authors used proper approaches that suited each study.

Results Validity and Reliability

Nichols, Raska, and Flint’s (2015) three-phase study on the masking nature of customers provided valid and reliable results. This claim can be proved through the presentation of the various research designs and the instruments used in ensuring that the findings were not biased. For example, in the second research, the pilot study was conducted before the actual research that was relevant to the first one. The researchers borrowed ideas from previous works that examined the subject of masking behaviours among customers. The pre-test was done to ensure that all sensitive and controversial variables were captured to guarantee validity and reliability.

The randomisation technique was also implemented during the pre-test to curb biasness and/or prevent fatigue. Furthermore, a 7-point likert scale (1 equalling to ‘not at all and 7 representing ‘extremely’) was used to assess the degree of embarrassment. This method was also borrowed from the previous researches to prove that the idea was not the researchers’ creation. The goal was to warrant reliability of the instruments. Therefore, the results from all the studies conducted are valid and reliable. The soundness and consistency of the results in the second study was ensured through the division of the study into two parts. The first part was conducted seven weeks prior to the second part to ensure that no possibility of confounds emerged. The study also ensured a scale of steadfastness and legitimacy from the respondents since it indicated a positive relationship when compared with other variables such as social anxiety and the use of emotion-based coping strategies.

The Evidence that the Text relies on

The researchers conducted three main studies on the nature of masking that results from embarrassment that is associated with buying particular products. The text used primary data collection sources. The first piece was based on the exploratory study whereby interviews were randomly conducted to the respondents who were included in the research design. Therefore, the information provided by these subjects relies on primary evidences.

The second study employed an empirical design whereby the researcher used randomised techniques to select the subjects to be included in the study. The respondents provided the evidences via emails as soon as they were completed (Nichols, Raska, & Flint 2015). Therefore, the evidence provided was from primary sources. Lastly, the third study implemented a survey with two sampling procedures that included encouraging the subjects to participate in exchange for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card and the Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Hence, it is also clear that the results provided were from first-hand evidence.

Conclusions that can be drawn: Are the Conclusions Justified?

The three studies conducted have highlighted proper understanding of emotional embarrassment, including how it influences behaviours of customers when conducting purchase. This conclusion is justified through the examination of two categories of subjects, namely the millennials and non-millennials. Therefore, the researchers have indicated that both the categories of customers usually anticipate embarrassment and that they strive to use coping techniques to avoid such humiliation when purchasing varied products. These strategies translated into improved purchasing volumes and value.


Customer embarrassment is always seen to be a problem that requires solutions from advertisers or managers. Nichols, Raska, and Flint (2015) seem to offer a contradicting opinion that the consumer himself or herself solves the issue of emotional embarrassment through the masking technique. The type of product determines the degree of embarrassment by consumer. Therefore, consumers are susceptible to buying more products or spending more money to acquire items.

In case they are embarrassed, it is likely that they will devise a coping mechanism. The technique of spending more is mainly a coping strategy that is brought about by emotional embarrassment and hence an insight from the research that shopping for products that are embarrassing to all consumers, irrespective of age, may trigger a behaviour that makes the clients mask the embarrassment. Therefore, even though clients are currently using the internet to enhance online shopping, retailers should comprehend that most customers rely on stores instead of online the online platforms to acquire their preferred items. Retailers should conduct product adjacency to ensure that the required product is placed next to the embarrassing product to guarantee increased use of the mask.


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