Toward Understanding Customer Powerlessness: Analysis of an Internet Complaint Site


  • Matthew P. Bunker University of Northern Iowa
  • Matthew S. Bradley GACO Western


This research investigated and established the emergence of different components of consumer powerlessness using complaints found on an airlines Internet complaint site, Consumer powerlessness is believed to be more prevalent in ambiguous circumstances, and traveling by air provides ample opportunities for ambiguity. Consequently the authors expected to find powerlessness themes in an airline complaint site. Formal content analysis was relied upon for the analysis with the specific provisions that customers explain a service failure that they tried to remedy and, from the point of view of these customers, their efforts were not properly recognized by personnel working for the airline. To exhibit powerlessness, people simply described a situation that they could not improve through their own efforts or used similes and/or metaphors that indicated positions of subordination to the marketer. Consequences of powerlessness identified in the content analysis were heightened vigilance, grudge-holding, retaliation, and fear. Grudge-holding and fear were most evident when customer service representatives were perceived to be rude to their customers.



— Updated on 2022-02-09


  • 2022-02-09 (2)
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