You Don’t Get a Free Pass to Act Like a Jerk When You’re Hunting for Deals

Paying at supermarket checkout
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Here at The Penny Hoarder, we applaud the deal hunters. We say “Bravo!” to the coupon clippers and the bargain bin shoppers. We even give kudos to those with top-notch haggling skills.

After all, saving money is what we’re all about, right?

To a point.

When you’re out shopping and trying to find the best possible bang for your buck, do you pay attention to the workers trying to help you with your purchase?

According to one new study, probably not. And if you do, you may not treat them very well.

Study Finds That Bargain Hunters See Store Employees as Less Than Human

A recent study published in The Journal Of Consumer Psychology shows some disturbing trends among discount-focused shoppers.

The study, conducted by the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, tested different shopping behaviors. The results showed that the more focused shoppers were on finding the lowest price and the best deal, the more likely they were to see the workers helping them as less than human.

“When shoppers focus only on paying the lowest price, they become less attuned to understanding the human needs of others, or even recognizing them,” said Johannes Boegershausen, a UBC Sauder Ph.D. student who co-authored the study, in a news release.

One experiment examined actual online reviews for discount airline Ryanair and the higher-end Lufthansa airline. Researchers found that consumers used fewer humanizing words like “sympathetic,” “friendly” or “helpful” for Ryanair employees. From there, they took it a step further and showed participants photos of flight attendants in uniforms of Ryanair and Lufthansa, and a neutral uniform. The study found that consumers rated the attendant in the Ryanair uniform less favorably than the other two.

Another experiment focused on the online shopping environment, pitting consumers against an intentionally rude customer service agent via chat. The result? Those who were focused on price were 18% more likely to give the customer service agent a rating that would lead to disciplinary actions.

Think about it. When you go into a business that is known for luxury, you expect to be pampered, right? Those employees are there to help you and make you feel special. When you seek the best deals and highest discounts, you may see the customer service employees as adversaries.

Stop it.

I worked at a big discount store in college for four years, and I can tell you firsthand that sometimes customers simply don’t understand that employees are there to help them. One lady got mad at me for not counting her change backward to her. Another looked at my best efforts to wrap her gift (it was a book) scoffed and said haughtily, “Oh, well. Just throw it in the bag. I thought you were going to do a better job.”

It was a free service. While I knew gift wrapping wasn’t my strength, the store was slammed and I was trying to help out.

Penny Hoarders, let’s agree on this. You can save money, find discounts and still be a decent human being. We shouldn’t need a study to tell us this.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. He once got in trouble for telling a customer not to whistle at him because “he’s not a dog.” Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

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