Time is of the Essence: The Effects of Time versus Money and Cognitive Dissonance on Post-Purchase Consumer Regret
Consumers are negatively impacted by the increasingly high rate of product returns. In 2020, an estimated $428 billion in merchandise were returned to retailers post-purchase with $25.3 billion being fraudulent returns (NRF.com). Previous research has stated that consumers undergo various negative emotional and cognitive mechanisms when returning and identified reasons as to why consumers return purchases such as product failure, dissatisfaction, and regret (Lee, 2015). Specifically, regret occurs when an individual second-guesses a chosen product due to the realization that the benefits of the unchosen product outweigh the original choice, which elicits uncomfortable feelings (Zeelenberg et al., 1998). However, how does the process of product acquisition and the outcome of the purchasing decision affect post-purchase consumer regret? The purpose of this study is to investigate how the process of expending consumer resources (e.g., time vs. money) to acquire a product and the outcome of inconsistent product attitudes and behaviors (e.g., cognitive dissonance) can affect post-purchase consumer regret (PPCR). In this mixed factorial design, participants viewed scenarios that presented the ‘time’ and ‘money’ spent in acquiring their chosen product and were asked to read a product review that either elicited low or high dissonant feelings. It was hypothesized that consumers would experience greater PPCR when dissonance is high, and the time spent to acquire the product is primed. The interaction effect was not supported; however, an ad hoc analysis revealed that a consumer experienced less PPCR when dissonance is high, and the time spent to acquire the product is highly convenient. The current findings highlight the importance of understanding the process and outcome of purchase on post-purchase evaluations.