Purpose – It is proposed that visible tattoos on service personnel may be used as a clue by consumers in predicting service process and outcome. This paper aims to explore this general hypothesis by investigating consumer perceptions of tattooed service employees and whether they vary by type of service rendered, the age of the perceiver, and whether the perceiver has a tattoo or not. Design/methodology/approach – A quota sample of age‐grouped subjects reported their perceptions of the appropriateness of visible tattoos on service personnel in nine different occupations as well as their inferences about tattooed people on five personal traits. Findings – Overall, visible tattoos on white‐collar workers were deemed inappropriate while similar tattoos on blue‐collar workers were viewed as appropriate. Respondents (both young and old and tattooed versus non‐tattooed) believed financial services workers should not have visible tattoos. Older subjects held a more unfavorable view of tattooed people, in general, than younger subjects, believing tattooed people are less intelligent and less honest than non‐tattooed people. Research limitations/implications – The respondents did not evaluate actual tattoos, just the location of the tattoo on the arms, hands, or neck. Also, subjects evaluated hypothetical employees. Prior acquaintance with the employee might alter the perception of the tattoo. Originality/value – This is apparently the first study to investigate consumer perceptions of visibly tattooed service personnel. Written explanations given by subjects for their responses suggest that judgment of the appropriateness of the tattoo is driven by expectations. That is, whether the presence of the tattoo is congruent with the mental image of people in that occupation in the mind of the perceiver. Interestingly, judgment of appropriateness was not affected by whether the perceiver had a tattoo or not, suggesting that perceived similarity of the object to the perceiver had little influence on evaluation.
Managing Service Quality – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 18, 2010
Keywords: Attitudes; Individual perception; Service delivery; Body language; Consumer behaviour
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