Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Upwardly Mobile with No Place to Go: A Cross-Cultural Investigation into Consumers' Constrained Consumption Experiences

Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Upwardly Mobile with No Place to Go: A Cross-Cultural Investigation into Consumers' Constrained Consumption Experiences

Article excerpt


Nearly every product you consume is delivered by a truck driver. The clothes you are wearing, the food you ate today, the vehicle you used for transportation as well as the paper or the electronic device that you may now be looking at were most likely delivered on a truck driven by a truck driver. The bulk of the United States' economy powers down highways on top of the 18 wheels of "tractor-trailer" trucks, where there are over 2.3 million tractor-trailer trucks in operation, logging over 90 billion miles annually (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013a; Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013b; U.S. Census Bureau 2002) and accounting for approximately 70% of all domestic shipments (American Trucking Associations 2009; American Trucking Associations 2013; Chopra and Meindl 2003).

While both in the United States and other developed countries, many goods are carried for at least part of their journey by other modes of transportation, such as ship, railway or airplane, almost all goods are carried by trucks at some point because few other forms of transportation can so effectively and efficiently deliver goods door-to-door (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2009; Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013a; Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013b; Casavant et al. 2010). Trucks and their drivers are playing a perhaps altogether more important role elsewhere, with the growth of rapidly developing economies ushered along by deliberate reliance on the fast and flexible deployment of trucks to move goods from producers to throngs of consumers in the third world.

The focus of this study is on the people who are at the helms of these machines, members of a 1.9 million person community whose deliveries of goods are crucial for all consumers, and especially the 80% of U.S. communities that are serviced only by truck (American Trucking Associations 2009; Casavant et al. 2010). Outside of the United States, in both developed and developing countries, trucks play an equally important role with consumers similarly reliant on trucks and their drivers for delivery of goods. Yet in spite of being such a crucial link in the non-stop global supply chain that greatly affects everyone, truck drivers rarely receive more attention than occasional fictitious and exaggerated portrayals in the mass media or passing expletives as drivers of cars (or "four wheelers" as they are known in truck driver parlance) attempt to share the road with them.

Along with being a vital conduit between people and goods, truckers are themselves consumers with particular needs and wants and commensurate buying power. This cross-cultural study examines truck drivers in two disparate cultures as an underrepresented cohort sharing similarities in their struggles as consumers. Truckers are understood not only as workers in the transportation industry, but also as consumers who use goods and services to solve problems as they go about their daily lives. To provide diversity of context and experience in an effort to broaden and juxtapose the phenomenon, participants were included from both the United States and Vietnam.

After a more elaborate explanation of research objectives, context for the research is presented. Following that, the authors provide an impetus for and explanation of using qualitative methods as a means of exploring and analyzing the phenomenon. A description of consumption-related experiences and explanation of their impact on the lives of truck drivers is presented in the form of a proposed emergent theoretical framework. Findings are understood within the context of existing research on constrained consumption.


The purpose of this study is to understand the consumption-related experiences of truck drivers as they go about living their daily lives. Specifically, there is a focus on the problems truck drivers face, how they use products, services, and interactions with others to solve those problems, and where gaps might exist in problem-resolution consumption processes. …

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