When Social Ties Bind: An Exploration of the Adverse Effects of Using Social Relationships to Make Purchases


  • Bryan R. Johnson Creighton University
  • William T. Ross University of Connecticut


In this paper, we extend previous research on social capital in the consumer domain by exploring the negative effects of consumers’ use of social relationships to facilitate purchases. Although social capital research focuses primarily on the positive benefits derived from using social relationships, our research uncovers unintended negative consequences for consumers who draw upon such relationships to make purchases. Using a grounded theory methodology, we identify three categories of negative outcomes that can arise when consumers use social relationships for consumption purposes: recourse restraint, trust decay, and relationship atrophy. In addition, we identify possible higher-order relationships among these negative outcome categories and we link them to important marketing outcomes, such as customer complaining behavior, satisfaction, and loyalty. Ultimately, our findings contribute to relationship marketing and social capital theory by highlighting and examining this overlooked dimension of consumer social capital behavior. Identifying these negative consequences and their impact on consumers and firms provides marketing scholars and practitioners with an enhanced conceptual foundation for studying and managing important marketing relationships.



2016-08-24 — Updated on 2021-12-22