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Cross-Cultural Complaining Behavior? An Alternative Explanation


  • Jeffrey Blodgett
  • Donna Hill
  • Aysen Bakir


Consumer complaining behavior in the US and other countries has been studied extensively over the years. Complaint behavior takes many forms: requests for refunds or exchanges, negative word-of-mouth, exit (or reduced repatronage), sabotage, and more recently Web site postings. When studied from an international context, differences in complaining behavior are typically explained in terms of underlying cultural values or norms; such as individualism vs. collectivism (Watkins and Liu 1996), uncertainty avoidance (Hernandez, Strahle, Garcia, and Sorensen 1991), or Confucian dynamism (Le Claire 1993), etc. These studies have indicated that collectivist cultures tend to discourage complaining behavior, that individuals who are high in uncertainty avoidance are less likely to seek redress or to engage in negative word-of-mouth, and that the more one identifies with traditional Chinese values the less likely he is to complain. This study, however, challenges the conventional wisdom that culture is the underlying factor that accounts for differences in complaining behavior across national boundaries.

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