The Influence of Employee Inkings on Consumer Behavior: Booed, Eschewed, and Tattooed
Hebl, Michelle R.
Doctor of Philosophy
One trend that is becoming overwhelmingly popular in mainstream America, particularly among the youth (prior to and as they enter the workforce) is getting tattoos (Armstrong, Owen, Roberts, & Koch, 2002; Chivers, 2002; Laumann & Derick, 2006), yet there is little empirical evidence on the impact of having tattoos in an employment context. The current dissertation sought to understand this impact by examining the influence of employee tattoos on customers’ stereotypical perceptions, attitudes toward the employee, organization, and products, and behavior toward the employee and organization across two studies. In the first study, customers viewed a marketing video in which the employee either had a visible tattoo or not. Customers reported more stereotypical perceptions of tattooed (versus nontattooed) employees, such that they perceived the tattooed employee as possessing more artistic traits, having a less favorable appearance, and being risker. Stereotypical perceptions of artistic traits were the strongest, and these perceptions mediated the relation between tattoo presence and evaluations of the employee, organization, and product. In a second field study, employees (who either had a tattoo or not) sold restaurant cards to customers at a convention to raise money for a charity organization. Results showed that customers engaged in more avoidance behaviors with tattooed (versus) nontattooed employees; however, there were no significant differences in purchasing behavior based on tattoo presence. The results of both studies provide insight into a mechanism for how tattoo presence impacts customers’ reactions to employees, organizations, and products. Implications and future research ideas are discussed.
Stigma; Discrimination; Consumer behavior; Tattoos