Investigating consumer embarrassment in service interactions

Luorong Laurie Wu, Anna Mattila

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


This study examines consumer embarrassment in a restaurant context. Embarrassment is a negative emotion that may have detrimental effects on customer behaviors. Consequently, it is necessary for service providers to understand the antecedents of consumer embarrassment and how to avoid such incidents. Adopting a role theory perspective, we identify three potential drivers of embarrassment: vague service scripts, customer mishaps, and the presence of fellow customers. We also examine the influence of three social factors on embarrassment: internal vs. external flagging of a mishap, group size of fellow customers, and familiarity among fellow customers. When flagging is internal, group size and familiarity of fellow customers jointly influence embarrassment. However, when flagging is external, group size and familiarity fail to influence embarrassment. Further, embarrassed consumers are less likely to engage in negative word-of-mouth activities if they realize their mishap by external flagging. We discuss managerial implications, along with study limitations and directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)196-202
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Hospitality Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Strategy and Management


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