A Glimpse into the Consumer Complaining Behavior of Immigrants

By Meng, Fanchen; Wang, Sijun et al. | Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

A Glimpse into the Consumer Complaining Behavior of Immigrants


Meng, Fanchen, Wang, Sijun, Peters, Susan, Lawson, Gary W., Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior


ABSTRACT

Previous studies found that international consumers exhibit different complaint behavior to product or service disappointments, often explained in terms of underlying cultural values or norms. However, this could be attributed to other factors as well. This study re-examines the cultural impact on consumer complaint behavior (CCB) by investigating differences between first-generation immigrants. A 2X2X2 between- subject scenario-based experiment was administered with 250 Mexican and 165 Chinese, first generation immigrants. Although the two groups now reside in the same market environment, our study documented the existence of their CCB differences. The proposed underlying mechanisms for such differences are largely supported by our data. Implications for theory and managerial practices are highlighted.

INTRODUCTION

Immigration undoubtedly represents one of the most significant social phenomena of our time. In fact, today we are witnessing the single largest tide of population movements in history. Immigrants and their U. S. -born children account for 55 percent ofthat growth between 1998 to 2006 (Pew Hispanic Center 2007) and immigrants are projected to continue coming to the United States at a steady rate. Between 2020 and 2025, the proportion of foreign-born in the United States is projected to surpass the previous century's peak of 14 percent, and by 2050, the foreign-born population is projected to reach 1 9 percent (Passel and Cohn 2008). In particular, the U.S. government estimates that some fifteen million Hispanics living in the United States are foreign born with more than half arriving in the last fifteen years (Ramirez and de la Cruz 2003), and another twelve million are estimated to be living in the United States illegally (Orrenius 2006). The Hispanic market in the U.S. consists of 40.4 million consumers (U.S. Census Bureau 2004). Another fast growing immigrant group is from Asia. Since 2000, the Asian-American population has increased nine percent, the highest growth rate of any ethnic group. The Asian-American population, which currently exceeds eleven million, is expected to more than triple to 34 million in the next 50 years (U.S. Census Bureau 2004). Immigrants are generally found in highly concentrated enclaves and in urban areas. The geographic concentration of ethnicities make reaching them very practical and economical (Guzman 2001). Retailers spend about two billion dollars a year to better serve these growing demographic markets.

Consumer scientists have long recognized the importance of cultural differences in consumer behavior. In the service marketing literature, there is an emerging research stream inquiring into cultural differences in consumer service expectations, service evaluations, and consumer reactions to service failure and recovery (e.g., Schoefer 2010; Patterson, Cowley, and Prasongsukarn 2006; Donthu and Yoo 1998; Liu, Furrer, and Sudharshan 2001). In particular, consumers were found to react differently to a dissatisfied service experience by demonstrating different consumer complaint behavior (CCB). Such CCB differences are typically explained in terms of underlying cultural values or norms such as individualism vs. collectivism (Watkins and Liu 1996; Liu, Furrer, and Sudharshan 2001); uncertainty avoidance (Hernandez et al. 1991; Schoefer 2010); or Confucian Dynamism also known as Saving Face (Nakata and Sivakumar 1996).

Although previous studies have documented cross-cultural (cross-national) differences of consumer complaint behavior, there are at least two important unanswered questions regarding the cross-cultural CCB differences: (1) can these cross-cultural differences be observed even when consumers reside in the same market environment; and (2) if cross-cultural CCB differences exist, what kind of mechanisms exist through which consumers' cultural orientations influence their complaint behavior? A study by Blodgett, Hill, and Bakir (2006) challenges the commonly-cited cultural explanation (i.

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