Commercial friendships between gay salesmen and straight female customers

Rosenbaum, Mark, Russell-Bennett, Rebekah, & Drennan, Judy (2014) Commercial friendships between gay salesmen and straight female customers. In 2014 American Marketing Association Services Special Interest Group Conference, 13 - 15 June 2014, Thessaloniki, Greece.

Abstract

Perhaps it is now sacrosanct in marketing to contemplate that many service encounters, especially those in retail settings, are social encounters in which bonds between and among customers and employees are critical drivers of consumption (Beatty et al., 1996; Rosenbaum, 2006). Indeed, within retail settings, it is often possible for salespeople and customers to form so-called “commercial friendships” (Price and Arnould, 1999). These friendships result in both salespeople and their customers having social interactions that are close to those experienced in personal friendships (Swan et al., 2001), and which are extremely satisfying for all parties. Outside of marketing, the social science literature (Grigoriou, 2004; Rumens, 2008; Russell, DelPriore, Butterfield, and Hill, 2013) and popular press (de la Cruz and Dolby, 2007; Hopcke and Rafaty, 1999; Tilmann-Healy, 2001, Whitney, 1990) is replete with knowledge regarding the “absolutely fabulous” friendships (Hopcke and Rafaty, 1999) that often form between gay men and straight women. In fact, Western culture regularly highlights the compatibility of gay men and straight women in film, television, and writing, to the extent that they have now influenced popular thinking on the topic, so that gay men and straight females are viewed as sharing common plights and interests (Rumens, 2008).

Yet, thus far, marketing researchers have looked askance at the effect of friendships between gay male employees and heterosexual female customers in consumption settings, such as retail stores and boutiques. Indeed, with the exception of Peretz’s (1995) participant observation regarding how young and outwardly gay salesmen use their ambiguous gender to sell women’s clothing, in a Paris-based luxury boutique, any theoretical explorations regarding retail-based commercial friendships between gay salesmen and female customers are non-existent—until now.

This research addresses this apparent chasm in the literature by putting forth an original framework that shows how the emotional closeness between gay salesmen and female customers, due to the absence of sexual interest and inter-female competition, results in an intense emotional closeness, that facilitates pleasurable retail transactions, customer satisfaction, loyalty, and positive word-of-mouth. In doing so, this work extends the commercial friendship paradigm by considering retail-based, commercial friendships between an under-researched marketplace dyad; gay men and straight females. It is worth noting here that some straight women may find the idea of commercial friendships with gay salesmen as undesirable, due to the very notion of having relationships with retail organizations or employees (Noble and Phillips, 2004), or a personal disdain for homosexuality.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 78675
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Retail, Marketing, Gay, Sales
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 [please consult the author]
Deposited On: 16 Nov 2014 23:59
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2015 09:08

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