Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

For luxury brands, rude customer service can pay off

Julia Roberts in the 1990 film "Pretty Woman”


Service that keeps us coming back

In the film Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts's character is snubbed at a fancy store on Rodeo Drive and returns later to tell the salespeople that she took her prodigious business elsewhere. But in real life, luxury brands are more likely to profit from rudeness.

Call it playing hard to get. A study from the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business has found that customers who are treated poorly at luxury retailers actually want to buy the expensive products more than those who are not snubbed.

Story continues below advertisement

"Our research indicates they can end up having a similar effect to an 'in-group' in high school that others aspire to join," marketing professor Darren Dahl said in a statement.

However, there are mitigating factors: If the salesperson did not fit the high-end brand image, customers had a negative reaction to their rudeness. And even when it did work, the effects weren't lasting: Two weeks after the encounter, consumers' heightened desire for the products had dwindled.

The study, "Should the Devil Sell Prada?" will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

Putting the 'pay' in pay-per-view

Tired of all those specialty channels you never watch ending up in your cable or satellite TV package? The people who make money from them are not. Revenues for "specialty" channels were up roughly 5 per cent last year to $3.29-billion, according to information released on Wednesday by Canada's broadcast regulator.

The "specialty" category includes channels such as TSN, CBC News Network or FX Canada, for example, which make money on a combination of TV subscriber fees and advertising. Financial results for the main networks, such as CTV and Global, will be released in the coming weeks.

Here are highlights from the financial results, including specialty channels, pay channels, pay-per-view services and video-on-demand services for 2013:

Story continues below advertisement

Revenues: $4.09-billion, up 3.1 per cent

National TV ad revenues: $1.27-billion

Local advertising revenue: $29.3-million

Subscriber revenues: $2.7-billion

Spending on Canadian-made programming: $1.3-billion ($412-million of it for sports)

Spending on non-Canadian programming: $340-million

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to