Study: “cheap” stigma for coupon users and those standing behind them in line
What do you think of people who use discount coupons when shopping at retail stores? Are you one of them? Are you annoyed by them? No matter what your feelings toward coupon users are, you will be interested to know that being around a person using a coupon may extend the “cheap” stigma they generate on to you. A recent study found that the “innocent” shoppers who just happen to stand next to a coupon user may be counted into the “cheap” camp by onlookers.
Consumers who redeem money-saving coupons in stores face a "shame stigma" that may extend to people standing in line nearby, Canadian researchers suggest.
Marketing professors Jennifer Argo of the University of Alberta and Kelley J. Main of the Asper School of Business theorize that the act of redeeming coupons elicits a stigma-by-association phenomenon, in which the person redeeming the coupon and those around them are perceived as being "cheap."
So why the link between coupon users and people standing next to them in line?
"We find that although a person may not redeem a coupon him [or] herself, they are not "safe" from stigmatization that arises during coupon redemption. Rather, if someone else redeems a coupon, the negativity associated with that behaviour will transfer and "mark" a non-coupon redeemer," Argo said in an e-mail.
"This is especially likely to happen when another consumer redeems a low-value coupon and people believe you personally know the coupon redeemer."
But in certain instances, the stigma didn't extend to other shoppers waiting in line.
"We do find that there are ways for a person to be "protected" from the stigma," Argo said. "If you do not know the person, the coupon value is high, you are in a different checkout line and if you are highly attractive."
Argo explained that being attractive counteracts the negative perceptions of coupon redemption.
"It is ultimately more powerful and so people focus on it rather than on the coupon redemption," she said.
So the next time you are standing in line behind someone who pulls out a coupon out of their wallet, be prepared to run if you don’t want to be tainted cheap, unless you are overwhelmingly cute of course.