The stigma of obesity in customer service: a mechanism for remediation and bottom-line consequences of interpersonal discrimination

J Appl Psychol. 2006 May;91(3):579-93. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.91.3.579.


Using a customer service paradigm, the authors extended the justification-suppression model (JSM) of prejudice (C. S. Crandall & A. Eshleman, 2003) to include contemporary, covert forms of discrimination and to identify a discrimination remediation mechanism. Overall, the results of 3 studies revealed that actual and confederate obese shoppers in high-prejudice justification conditions faced more interpersonal discrimination than average-weight shoppers. Furthermore, Studies 1 and 2 demonstrate that adopting strategies that remove perceivers' justifications for discriminating against obese individuals (i.e., the controllability of weight) decreases the incidence of interpersonal discrimination. Additionally, Study 3 demonstrates negative bottom-line consequences of interpersonal discrimination for organizations (e.g., customer loyalty, purchasing behavior). Together, these studies confirm that the JSM applies to covert forms of discrimination, show the importance of examining subtle discrimination, and offer a mechanism for theory-driven strategies for the reduction of covert forms of discrimination.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Prejudice*
  • Stereotyping*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires