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How Credit Card Payments Increase Unhealthy Food Purchases: Visceral Regulation of Vices

48 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2010 Last revised: 27 Mar 2011

Manoj Thomas

Cornell University - Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management

Kalpesh Kaushik Desai

State University of New York at Binghamton

Satheeshkumar Seenivasan

State University of New York at Buffalo

Date Written: September 1, 2010

Abstract

Some food items that are commonly considered unhealthy also tend to elicit impulsive responses. The pain of paying in cash can curb impulsive urges to purchase such unhealthy food products. Credit card payments, in contrast, are relatively painless and weaken impulse control. Consequently, consumers are more likely to buy unhealthy food products when they pay by credit card than when they pay in cash. Results from four studies support these hypotheses. Analysis of actual shopping behavior of 1,000 households over a period of six months revealed that shopping baskets have a larger proportion of food items rated as impulsive and unhealthy when shoppers use credit or debit cards to pay for the purchases (Study 1). Follow-up experiments (Studies 2-4) show that the vice-regulation effect of cash payments is mediated by pain of payment and moderated by chronic sensitivity to pain of payment. Implications for consumer welfare and theories of impulsive consumption are discussed.

Keywords: Behavioral Pricing, Impulsive Behavior, Obesity, Self-Control

JEL Classification: B21, C23, C90, C91, D10, D11, D12, D18, D90, D91, E31, I11, I12, M30, M31

Suggested Citation

Thomas, Manoj and Desai, Kalpesh Kaushik and Seenivasan, Satheeshkumar, How Credit Card Payments Increase Unhealthy Food Purchases: Visceral Regulation of Vices (September 1, 2010). Journal of Consumer Research, Forthcoming; Johnson School Research Paper Series No. 12-2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1675826

Manoj Thomas (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management ( email )

353 Sage Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-7207 (Phone)
607-254-4590 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://forum.johnson.cornell.edu/faculty/mthomas/

Kalpesh Kaushik Desai

State University of New York at Binghamton ( email )

212 Academic A, School of Management
Vestal, NY 13902
United States

Satheeshkumar Seenivasan

State University of New York at Buffalo ( email )

12 Capen Hall
Buffalo, NY 14222
United States

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