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Understanding black market retailing: the case of Colombia’s San Andresitos

Mark S. Rosenbaum (University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA)
Mauricio Losada-Otalora (CESA School of Business, Bogotá, Colombia)
Germán Contreras-Ramirez (Externado University, Bogotá, Colombia)

Journal of Service Theory and Practice

ISSN: 2055-6225

Article publication date: 24 May 2018

Issue publication date: 26 November 2020




The purpose of this paper is to explore black market retailing, with a focus on Colombia’s San Andresitos.


The authors use grounded theory methodology to develop a theoretical framework that explains how consumers rationalize their acceptance, rejection, or tolerance of black market retailing. The authors obtained qualitative data based on reader responses to newspaper articles on San Andresitos and used the responses as qualitative data in comparative analysis to derive a “strategy family” theoretical framework.


The framework advances rationalization techniques that consumers employ to accept, reject, or tolerate the San Andresitos.

Research limitations/implications

Colombians are divided on the legality of the San Andresitos. Although half the informants note the wrongfulness of the San Andresitos, the other half offer reasons to accept or tolerate them.

Practical implications

Legitimate (i.e. lawful) retailers operating in Colombia, or planning to enter, need to realize that local and national government officials support the San Andresitos. Colombia’s legitimate retailers must co-exist with the black market and dissuade consumers from patronizing unauthorized vendors or purchasing illicit goods.

Social implications

Colombia’s acceptance of its black markets results in consumers inadvertently supporting crime, terrorism, and even bodily harm via the San Andresitos. However, the San Andresitos enable lower-income consumers to gain access to otherwise unattainable merchandise and provide employment through lower-skilled labor.


This paper is one of the first to explore black markets. From a transformative service research perspective, this research reveals how consumers, retailers, and government officials participate in Colombia’s black market, and how their activities serve to harm consumer well-being.



This paper forms part of a special section “The Naples Forum on Service”, guest edited by Cristina Mele and Francesco Polese.


Rosenbaum, M.S., Losada-Otalora, M. and Contreras-Ramirez, G. (2020), "Understanding black market retailing: the case of Colombia’s San Andresitos", Journal of Service Theory and Practice, Vol. 30 No. 4/5, pp. 483-505.



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