Embarrassment is a barrier to sales

Why shop online? Avoid the embarrassment of mispronouncing foreign words or being viewed as a giant fattie! Nom nom nom nom…


We show that social interaction reduces the diversity of products purchased by consumers in two retail settings. First, we consider a field experiment conducted by Sweden’s monopoly alcohol retailer and find that moving purchases from behind the counter to self-service disproportionately increases the sales of difficult-to-pronounce products. Second, we use individual-level panel data from a pizza delivery restaurant to show that online orders have greater complexity and more calories, which increases both consumer and producer surplus. Combined, these results suggest that social inhibitions can substantially affect market outcomes, likely due to consumers’ fear of embarrassment.