Department of Marketing


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Services Marketing 22:1 (2008), pp. 37–47; doi: 10.1108/08876040810851941 Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Used by permission.


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to place grudge-holding as a theoretical construct, measure it, and empirically place it in a nomological net and, additionally to discuss the consequences of grudge-holding in this research.

Design/methodology/approach – A 2 × 2 scenario-based experiment was performed using 320 subjects, approximately 80 people per condition. The size of the exit barrier (high/low) and the effectiveness of the service recovery (good/poor) were varied between each scenario to determine changes in grudge-holding.

Findings – Some consequences of grudge-holding are retaliation desire and communication avoidance. Although trust was tested in this research, and is still an important relationship variable, the results show that loss of trust cannot explain these outcomes in the presence of grudge-holding.

Research limitations/implications – The results are limited by the fact that they are based on scenarios rather than real events. As such, they should be interpreted with some caution, and confirmed by later studies using cross-sectional or natural experimental data.

Practical implications – A grudge-holding item should be included in routine customer satisfaction surveys, especially since grudgeholders are less likely to initiate communication. If grudge-holding is suspected, this paper suggests steps that managers can take to defuse grudges.

Originality/value – The results of this research confirm that grudge-holding is an important construct of service relationships. Understanding grudge-holding is important because it predicts the desire for retaliation and the desire to avoid communication, both of which can increase expenses for the firm, and eventually lead to a mass exit of customers.

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