Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 98, Issue 2, pp 331–349 | Cite as

Suspicion and Perceptions of Price Fairness in Times of Crisis

  • Jodie L. Ferguson
  • Pam Scholder Ellen
  • Gabriela Herrera Piscopo


Times of crisis bring about increased demands on businesses as shortages, or unexpected but significant, business costs are encountered. Passing on such costs to consumers is a challenge. When faced with a retail price increase, consumers may rely on cues as to the motive behind the increase. Such cues can raise suspicion of alternative motive (e.g., taking advantage of the consumer) affecting consumers’ judgments of price fairness. This research investigates two triggers of suspicion: salience of alternative motives, and behavior judged to be out-of-character for the business. Results of the two studies within crisis contexts indicate that suspicion is created when alternative motives are salient and when a retailer acts out-of-character. Multiple group analyses revealed that suspicion induced negative affect and subsequent perceptions of price fairness. When suspicion was present, more negative feelings toward the retailer and judgments of price unfairness resulted.


suspicion price fairness price gouging crisis affect 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jodie L. Ferguson
    • 1
  • Pam Scholder Ellen
    • 2
  • Gabriela Herrera Piscopo
    • 2
  1. 1.Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondU.S.A.
  2. 2.Georgia State UniversityAtlantaU.S.A.

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