What Do Online Complainers Want? An Examination of the Justice Motivations and the Moral Implications of Vigilante and Reparation Schemas

  • Yany GrégoireEmail author
  • Renaud Legoux
  • Thomas M. Tripp
  • Marie-Louise Radanielina-Hita
  • Jeffrey Joireman
  • Jeffrey D. Rotman
Original Paper


This research aims to understand how two basic schemas—vigilante and reparation—influence online public complaining. Drawing on two experiments, a longitudinal field study and content analysis of online complaints, the current research makes three core contributions. First, we show that for similar service failures, each schema is associated with different justice motivations (i.e., in terms of recovery, revenge, and protection of others), which have different moral implications for consumers. Second, vigilante and reparation complainers write complaints in a different manner and are drawn to different online platforms; this information is helpful to identify complainers using each schema. Third, the schemas moderate the process leading to different post-complaint benefits (i.e., resolution and positive affect). Specifically, perseverance has a greater effect on obtaining a resolution for reparation complainers compared to vigilantes. Additionally, whereas a recovery leads to an increase in positive affect for reparation complainers, vigilantes experience a high level of positive affect simply by posting their complaint (regardless of the resolution). The theoretical, ethical, and managerial implications of these findings are discussed.


Online complaining Justice theory Service failure Customer revenge Cognitive schemas Conflict frames Ethics consumer behavior Textual analysis 



This study was funded by a large public North American university.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

There is no conflict of interest between this university and the two websites of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional Committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the studies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yany Grégoire
    • 1
    Email author
  • Renaud Legoux
    • 1
  • Thomas M. Tripp
    • 2
  • Marie-Louise Radanielina-Hita
    • 1
  • Jeffrey Joireman
    • 2
  • Jeffrey D. Rotman
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of MarketingHEC MontréalMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Washington State UniversityVancouverUSA
  3. 3.Deakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

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