Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 243-262

First online:

Consumers as targets: Autonomy, accountability, and anticipation of the influence process

  • Robert PrusAffiliated withDept. of Sociology, University of Waterloo

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Given their limited financial resources, shoppers generally appreciate the practical necessities of resisting sales pitches and other promotional activities destined to entice them into inopportune purchases. At the same time, ventures into the marketplace represent practical necessities for nearly everyone as well as significant forms of entertainment (Prus and Dawson, 1991; Prus, 1993) for a great many people. This generates a series of interactional dilemmas for almost everyone in western society as they attempt to pursue their interests in conjunction with the salespeople they encounter. Building on data from a larger study of consumer practices, this paper considers the ways in which buyers attempt to maintain control over the lines of action they develop in potential purchasing contexts. In particular, attention is given to the ways in which people manage intimacy and distancing in shopping contexts by focusing on (a) people’s preferences for self-serve versus service settings and (b) shoppers anticipations as targets of the influence process.