Academic journal article Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior

When Social Ties Bind: An Exploration of the Adverse Effects of Using Social Relationships to Make Purchases

Academic journal article Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior

When Social Ties Bind: An Exploration of the Adverse Effects of Using Social Relationships to Make Purchases

Article excerpt


Given the influence of social ties in market cultures, many consumers draw upon social relationships to purchase everyday products and services (DiMaggio and Louch 1998; Frenzen and Davis 1990). While marketing scholars have recently begun to address the basic questions of whether and why consumers leverage pre-existing personal relationships in the marketplace (Johnson and Ross 2014), there is essentially no research aimed at understanding any negative implications of such behaviors for consumers specifically. As a basis for exploring the negative consequences of incorporating social relationships into consumption experiences, we draw upon the individualistic branch of social capital theory, which explains how individuals obtain benefits or returns as a result of their social relationships with others (Lin 2001; Portes 1998).

Because social capital research in the social sciences, in general, and in the consumer domain, in particular, has predominantly focused on the positive outcomes of this behavior, the primary objectives of this paper are to identify the potential negative outcomes of consumer social capital usage, and to explore how these outcomes relate to one another and to other important marketing constructs, such as complaining behavior and satisfaction. Ultimately, uncovering and explaining these negative outcomes becomes important if scholars are to begin to fully understand the influence of social relationships on consumers' experiences and behaviors.

The investigation of social relationships as the basis for studying the negative outcomes associated with marketing relationships has several advantages. First, it examines relationships that are typically more developed because they form and mature first in the social sphere before they are used for consumption. For the purposes of our study, social relationships are those that pre-date participants' consumption experiences. That is, they existed first as social relationships (i.e., friendships) before they were used for commercial purposes. Second, because many marketing related relationships do not reach advanced levels of relationship development (Price and Arnould 1999), social relationships provide an opportunity to examine elements that may be missing from existing marketing relationship frameworks. Examining developed social relationships reveals insights that might otherwise be obscured by the type or the level of maturity of traditional commercial relationships. Finally, examining social relationships provides an opportunity to study and extend social capital theory, while also examining a new and important category of marketing relationships. Ultimately, examining social relationships used for consumption purposes provides an important starting point for examining the potential negative outcomes that might result from various types of marketing relationships.

This study makes four important contributions. First, it highlights the notion that social capital usage may not be the panacea that research often portrays it to be; we show that social capital usage may sometimes result in negative outcomes for individuals. Second, this study extends previous research on social relationships in the marketplace by identifying three specific types of negative outcomes experienced by consumers using social capital for consumption purposes. Third, this study demonstrates that these negative outcomes can occur for individuals, not just for the groups or communities in which they associate, as has been suggested by previous social capital research. Fourth, it highlights the potential impact of these negative outcomes on consumers' purchase experiences, particularly regarding customer complaining behavior and customer satisfaction. When considered collectively, our findings have important implications for both consumer behavior and for social capital research in general.


Social Capital Theory

Social capital theory provides a unique perspective for investigating the interaction between social relationships and individual behaviors. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.