It makes me feel vulnerable! The impact of public self-disclosure on online complaint behavior

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Genuine reviews are essential for financial performance and for customer trust. In the case of a negative experience, withholding negative reviews may lead to biased online information. This paper aims to investigate two factors that may prompt customers to withhold their complaints (i.e., identity disclosure and locus of control). The study adopts a sequential exploratory mixed-method approach. An exploratory interview phase compares public vs anonymous online environments, and explores the reasons why dissatisfied customers might decide not to complain. An experiment then shows that vulnerability is a key mechanism preventing negative reviews. This effect is exaggerated when customers perceive that they do not have control over the events happening in their lives (i.e., external locus of control). Our work uncovers an important determinant of online complaint behavior, vulnerability. It also offers practical suggestions, such as improving confidentiality, to increase a customer's willingness to complain following a negative experience.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102512
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Hospitality Management
Early online date30 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • customer complaint behavior
  • vulnerability
  • public self-disclosure
  • locus of control
  • financial performance
  • online reviews


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