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Retail disturbances: how should employees respond?

Aaron D. Arndt (Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, USA)
Juliet F. Poujol (Paris-Nanterre University, Nanterre, France)
Béatrice Siadou-Martin (UFR ESM IAE de Metz, University of Lorraine, Nancy, France)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 15 February 2021

Issue publication date: 17 June 2021




The customer retail experience is frequently interrupted by disturbances such as ringing phones and other people. Employees must be able to respond to retail disturbances effectively to ensure that customers have a satisfactory experience in the retailer. Using Affective Events Theory as a framework, the purpose of this paper is to develop and test a model for understanding how retail disturbances affect customers outcomes and how retail employee response mitigates the negative impact of retail disturbances.


The model was tested using a pre-study of retail managers and consumers, a survey study and four experimental studies.


Retail disturbances reduce interactional justice and customer positive emotions. Customers pay attention to how employees address retail disturbances, even when they are not directly involved.

Research limitations/implications

The research experiments focus on sound-based disturbances. Other stimuli (e.g. olfactory or visual) should be examined in more detail.

Practical implications

Employees can mitigate the negative effects of retail disturbances on customers with a positive response to the disturbance and to customers. Employee responses influence customers currently receiving service and nearby shoppers.

Social implications

The findings demonstrate the deleterious effect of solicitation calls on small retailers and provide recommendations for reducing solicitation calls.


This research shows that retail disturbances reduce customer outcomes, employee response becomes part of the disturbance event, and that it is possible for employees to address a group of nearby customers indirectly through unintentional observation.



Arndt, A.D., Poujol, J.F. and Siadou-Martin, B. (2021), "Retail disturbances: how should employees respond?", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 55 No. 6, pp. 1701-1723.



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