Protecting Yourself from Unethical Consumer Behaviour
Businesses that need to manage unethical consumers face a management challenge. Many consumers consider the consequences of unethical consumer behaviour to be low for common scenarios such as taking towels from hotels as souvenirs, reporting lost items as stolen to collect insurance money, or not reporting receiving too much change at the cashier.
According to a study conducted by Emerald’s Journal of Consumer Marketing, the rationale for such behaviour is that there is little chance of being caught, businesses are ‘faceless” and thus “victimless”, and that these crimes are proportionately not as severe as others.
In Bermuda, common examples of unethical consumer behaviour reported to Consumer Affairs include:
- People impersonating Consumer Affairs personnel in a bid to deceive businesses into refunding money;
- Switching clothing set sizes so that the top is one size and the bottom another;
- Switching price tags so that items are marked as cheaper than they should be;
- Tampering with a product so as to report it as faulty to gain a refund.
An obvious deterrent to consumer illegalities is to install security devices and personnel throughout your business in order to ward off consumers who engage in crimes of opportunity.
A less obvious route that coincides with good customer service is to enhance customer loyalty- or to increase “relationship marketing”. Many businesses are aware that it is up to six times more difficult to attract new customers as it is to retain existing ones. This has important consequences for businesses’ customer service record, including handling customer complaints.
High customer loyalty also reduces unethical consumer behaviour because customers who consider themselves as having a consumer relationship with a business are less likely to shoplift or engage in other unethical acts. As a consumer is to feel that he is an “individual” in the eye of the business, so too will he individualize that business and not consider a crime against it “victimless”.
Marketing strategies that rely on personalizing a business’s staff to the public, supporting the community through volunteering and corporate donations to community events, and being socially responsible are all are excellent ways to build customer loyalty. Having highly trained staff that are responsive to customers’ needs, including handling their complaints in a successful manner, is also a positive step.