Customer mistreatment: A test of the triangle model


Customer relations, employee attitudes, employee behavior, hospitality services, United States of America


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present and partially test the triangle model of fairness (TMF) by examining employee reactions to customer fairness. Design/methodology/approach – A total of 217 undergraduate hospitality students at a US university participated in the study. Participants seated in a classroom were asked to take part in the study. Customer interpersonal justice was manipulated (high justice versus low justice) in a completely randomized between-subjects design. The manipulation consisted of written scenarios that depicted interactions between a customer and an employee. Participants read the scenarios. Then, they were instructed to imagine they were the employee in the scenario and were asked to answer questions that assessed their reactions to the interaction with the customer. Findings – Consistent with the predictions, the results of the study revealed that when employees experience interpersonally fair treatment from customers, they are more likely to engage in helping behaviors toward their organization and future customers. Originality/value – The paper examines employee responses to fairness from customers, in terms of helping (or harming) the organization and future customers. As rationale for the study, the authors drew on the TMF. The study makes a contribution to research on services and organizational justice by being the first to empirically examine the TMF. Overall, this paper demonstrates that organizations need to be cognizant of the effects of customers’ treatment on service employees, as customers’ treatment can have serious effects on employees’ subsequent behaviors

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Original Citation

Bardes, M., Ford, R.C., Dickson, D.R., Folger, R. (2010). Customer mistreatment: A test of the triangle model. Journal of Service Management. 21(4), 515-530.

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Source Title

Journal of Service Management






Rosen College of Hospitality Management


Rosen College of Hospitality Management

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