'Be Careless with That!' Availability of Product Upgrades Increases Cavalier Behavior Toward Possessions

by Silvia Bellezza, Joshua M. Ackerman, and Francesca Gino

Overview — Contrary to the notion that consumers highly value and care for their possessions, this research demonstrates that consumers may become careless toward owned products when they know there are appealing upgrades coming. Such carelessness is driven by consumers’ strong desire to justify decisions. The findings suggest opportunities for marketers and designers because planned obsolescence might benefit upgrade-minded consumers by making it easier for them to damage or detect functional flaws in owned products.

Author Abstract

Consumers are often faced with the opportunity to purchase a new, enhanced product, such as a new phone, even though the product they currently own is still fully functional. We propose that consumers act more recklessly with their current products when in the presence of appealing, though not yet attained, product upgrades (not just mere replacements). Carelessness and neglect toward currently owned products stem from a desire to justify the attainment of upgrades without appearing wasteful. A series of studies with actual owners of a wide range of different goods (e.g., durable, consumable, functional, and hedonic products) and evidence from a real-word dataset of lost Apple iPhones demonstrate how the availability of product upgrades increases cavalier behavior toward possessions. Moreover, we show that product neglect in the presence of attractive upgrades can occur without deliberate intentions. Finally, we discuss the theoretical and managerial implications of these findings.

Paper Information