64 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2015
Date Written: August 21, 2014
Although complaints document dissatisfaction, some are also humorous. The paper introduces the concept of humorous complaining and draws on the benign violation theory – which proposes that humor arises from things that seem simultaneously wrong yet okay – to examine how being humorous helps and hinders complainers. Six studies show that humorous complaints benefit people who want to warn, entertain, and make a favorable impression on others. Further, in contrast to the belief that humor is beneficial but consistent with the benign violation theory, humor makes complaints seem more positive (by making an expression of dissatisfaction seem okay), but makes praise seem more negative (by making an expression of satisfaction seem wrong in some way). Finally, a benign violation approach also reveals that complaining humorously has costs. Because being humorous suggests that a dissatisfying situation is okay, humorous complaints are less likely to elicit redress or sympathy from others than non-humorous complaints.
Keywords: humor, complaining, consumer, marketing, amusement
JEL Classification: M03
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
McGraw, A. Peter and Warren, Caleb and Kan, Christina, Humorous Complaining (August 21, 2014). Journal of Consumer Research, Forthcoming; Mays Business School Research Paper No. 2534475. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2534475 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2534475