Journal of Business Ethics 98 (2):331 - 349 (2011)

Times of crisis bring about increased demands on businesses as shortages, or unexpected but significant, business costs are encountered. Passing on such costs to consumers is a challenge. When faced with a retail price increase, consumers may rely on cues as to the motive behind the increase. Such cues can raise suspicion of alternative motive (e. g., taking advantage of the consumer) affecting consumers' judgments of price fairness. This research investigates two triggers of suspicion: salience of alternative motives, and behavior judged to be out-of-character for the business. Results of the two studies within crisis contexts indicate that suspicion is created when alternative motives are salient and when a retailer acts out-of-character. Multiple group analyses revealed that suspicion induced negative affect and subsequent perceptions of price fairness. When suspicion was present, more negative feelings toward the retailer and judgments of price unfairness resulted
Keywords suspicion  price fairness  price gouging  crisis  affect
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-010-0552-8
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