Cross-national differences in complaint behavior: cultural or situational?

Jeffrey G. Blodgett, Aysen Bakir, Anna S. Mattila, Andrea Trujillo, Claudia Quintanilla, A. Banu Elmadağ

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Purpose: Previous research indicates that dissatisfied consumers in other countries react differently as compared to those in the USA, due to their cultural orientation. These studies, however, have not recognized that retail policies (regarding returns and exchanges) in the USA are much more liberal and “consumer friendly” than in other parts of the world, and thus it is possible that their conclusions are flawed. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to determine the extent to which cross-national differences in complaint behavior are due to cultural vs situational factors. Design/methodology/approach: To examine this issue, a two-part study was conducted. Study 1 compared consumers living in China, India and Mexico to cohorts who immigrated to the USA. Study 2 compared individuals from those same countries to subjects who are native to the USA. Findings: The findings indicate that situational factors (i.e. consumer-oriented vs restrictive refund/return/exchange policies) have a large impact on consumer complaint behavior (i.e. redress, negative-word-of-mouth and exit), and that the effects of culture are minor. Research limitations/implications: To infer cause-effect, and establish scientific theory, one must rule out alternative hypotheses. Researchers who are investigating cross-cultural complaint behavior must take situational factors into account. Practical implications: With the emergence of “global consumers” consumer expectations around the world are changing. Astute retailers should institute and promote more liberal return policies, thereby mitigating consumers’ perceived risk. Originality/value: This study dispels the notion that culture is responsible for differences in cross-national consumer complaint behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)913-924
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Services Marketing
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 6 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Marketing


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