Service nepotism in the marketplace

Mark S. Rosenbaum, Gianfranco Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)


This study represents the first empirical examination of a neglected phenomenon – namely, service nepotism. We propose a framework that explains a process in which customers cue service providers of potential shared commonalities, such as sexual orientation and ethnicity, in service settings in which they also represent distinct, alienated or marginalized minorities. By drawing on qualitative evidence from American gay men and ethnic Turks residing in Germany, this research proposes that customers may signal commonalities to like employees by deploying similarity-to-self cues or group markers during exchanges. Driven by ethnocentric ‘tribal’ biases, employees may respond to these cues by providing like customers with relational resources, such as upgrades, monetary discounts and enhanced service quality. We explain how these relational resources influence customers' behaviours and discuss the theoretical and managerial implications of our findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-256
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Journal of Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


  • service nepotism
  • service providers
  • customers
  • service quality

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