Department of Marketing


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Published in Journal of Consumer Behaviour 8 (Sept/Oct 2009), pp. 268–283; doi: 10.1002/cb.287 Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Used by permission.


This research investigated the consequences of powerlessness when consumers experience service failure with a company that has high-exit barriers. The specific consequences investigated were three types of secondary control, which are grudge-holding, avoidance (predictive avoidance), and retaliation desire. These secondary control coping strategies highlight consumers’ ability to control their personal behaviors and thoughts, even when they cannot completely control the outcomes of a situation. A qualitative study, followed by a scenario-based survey and structural equation model, suggest that the primary direct consequences of powerlessness in commercial relationships are grudge-holding and predictive avoidance, and that both predictive avoidance and a desire to retaliate are further consequences of grudge-holding. The results of this research underscore the importance of understanding the role of powerlessness and its consequences in consumer–firm relationships.

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