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KROPP, M. E. (2004). The Influence of Race, Gender, and Age on Sales. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 7. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved June 9, 2023 .

The Influence of Race, Gender, and Age on Sales

Sponsored by: ELIZABETH HAMMER (eyhammer@loyno.edu)
The study was conducted using 74 participants from Loyola University New Orleans. A 40-question questionnaire was the independent variable for the study, 15 of which were based on scenarios involving a picture. There were two surveys, which had varying pictures pertaining to the category of the question: race, age or gender. Many confounds in the survey, a small participant pool, and the inability to find past research in the subject area limited the study. Our hypotheses for this study involved the success of a sale based on the congruence in the race of the salespersons and consumer. It is also hypothesized that a sale of the product will be successful if the age of the salesperson (picture) and the consumer (participant) are close in relation to one another. Lastly it is hypothesized that a sale is more likely to be made if the participants are of opposite gender. However, this study yielded no significant findings there involving any of the hypotheses, possibly because of other confounds and limitations.

Discrimination and stereotypes affect all social aspects of our daily lives. From the interactions that are experienced on a day-to-day basis to the first observations of individuals as they walk through the chaotic streets of the world prejudice influence all decisions that are made. While these stereotypes are commonplace they are something that limits the social interactions of individuals. The limitations that stereotypes create not only affect the individuals who the stereotypes are geared towards but also the world in which they live. Every social interaction that occurs involves a stereotype of some sort. As defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary (2001), a stereotype is “an idea many people have about a thing or a group and that may often be untrue or only partly true.” Within this definition is the fact that everyone has and holds stereotypes. People hold stereotypes either to generalize an object as being a certain shape, size, or color, or to generalize the behaviors or attitudes of a group of people. Most of these stereotypes are from experiences within the world and are created subconsciously to limit and categorize the amount of information a person retains. A prime example of stereotypes is in the field of sales. Some of the stereotypes within sales include racial, gender, and age stereotypes. The person to person transfer of unique assets that belong to the two individuals such as land or inventory for the trade of another item, be it money, other land, beads ( a reference to the trade with the Native Americans of beads for land in the Louisiana purchase) that are part of the world. An example of a sale is the exchange that occurs at the grocery store. After concluding the product selection process the shopper walks to the register where the cashier is standing. While first observation, which last less than a second in the brain says “oh well yes that is a person standing behind the counter.” The next observation already occurring within that first second is the race, sex, and age of the individual standing behind the counter before the shopper has already been stereotyped and categorized. The assumption that is drawn by the shopper, limits both the relationship and sale to a certain degree. Be it a change of shopping habits because a stereotype is bad enough to be a prejudice, which they might use to change future shopping habits. So of what importance are sales to the world? As demonstrated above they predict they predict the success and failure of businesses and of the free market. The importance of sales is clear but the effect of stereotypes on them is not. Within the success and failure of a business is the concern by companies and advertising agencies. As stated by Wolin (2003) advertisers are looking more and more to understand how products images and believability are affected by a salesperson. Wolin (2003) examined how advertisements and there portrayal of gender roles. With sales being so important to the world market and to companies, it is necessary to understand people better, which involves obtaining a better understanding of stereotypes and stereotyping. Also persuasion necessary for completing the sale is simpler and easier when the consumer is better understood by the salesperson. Past research has examined the effects of race, gender, and age on consumer attitudes. While much research has been conducted on the effects of theses stereotypes, there has not been much research on the magnitude and variance in the three stereotypes. In other words, which stereotypes is most important to people’s discussion making. (Jones, Moore, Stanaland, & Wyatt, 1998) hypothesized that “race [and gender] will influence the perception of salesperson credibility.” (Jones, 1998, p.6) Jones research suggest that both race and gender are a factor in the decision making process by the consumer about a salesperson. Jones (1998) found no congruence factor, which is to say that when the race of both the consumer and the salesperson are the same (congruent) the likelihood of a negative, stereotype driven relationship will decrease. In the industrial field gender stereotype and relations towards the salespeople were found to be that women would be accepted by the industrial field if they so choose (Swan, Rink, Kiser, & Martin, 1984). However, according to Comer and Jolson (as cited by Comer, 1998) stereotypes can be tied to a less effective selling performance for saleswoman. While examining another aspect of racial relationships, adolescence views of racial congruency, a contrasting view to Jones 1998 was found. Appiah (2001) examined the importance of racial congruence in adolescence. Appiah (2001) used advertisements, which had been altered to include cultural symbol, such as an African mask in the picture of a black person. Appiah (2001) concluded that both black and white congruence (similarity to own race) played an important role in their decision making. Age discrimination does exist in sales in the simple interactions that occur between the salesperson and consumer. Be it that one or both of the parties believe that the other is not trustworthy, reliable, intelligent etc… Mcvittie (2003) took these ideas and examined age discrimination through peoples indirect accounts of situations where age stereotypes and discrimination might arise. Found that there was age discrimination within the work place and in people day to day interactions. This interaction involving age discrimination is not only prevalent in the work place but is also a factor in the interactions that occur daily, this includes the relationship between a consumer and a salesperson. It can be concluded that since discrimination is involved, so is the underling factor in discrimination, stereotyping. Where there is discrimination there is a stereotype. It is hypothesized that the sale will be successful if there is congruence in the race of the salespersons and consumer. It is also hypothesized that the sale of the product will be successful if the age of the salesperson (picture) and the consumer(participant) are near to each other. Lastly it is hypothesized that the sale will be made if the participants are of opposite gender rather than the same gender.


There will be 80 participants in the study both male and female. The age of the participant will range from 18 and older. The participants will come from multiple ethnic groups. The participants will be recruited at Loyola University. To recruit professors emails will be sent out requesting their participation the recruitment strategy will be emailing professors at the university requesting that they participate in the study. Yet another technique will be confronting organizations about actively participating in the study. Finally, with the permission of the professors we will solicit the students help in the research during class time in various classes. The participant pool will be diverse in age, gender, as well as ethnicity and sexual orientation. For the most part the participants will be participating for course credit through the psychology department. The rest of the participants are participating solely on a voluntary basis. MaterialsThe materials include two surveys that were created by the researchers. The surveys that are being used involves questions pertaining to race, gender, and age issues and are labeled Survey A and Survey B. The questions are set up for the most part in a situational sequence, a story of a situation, with a picture of an individual followed by a question or set of questions. The seven point Likert scale is used as the measure if the would definitely, probably or definitely not agree with the scenario. The survey includes 41 questions that pertain to race, gender, and age related situations. The dependent variable that is being measured is the success of the sale based on the score on the survey for each question. The independent variables that the survey has manipulated are the factors of race, gender, and age. Some of the traits that the survey is measuring are the likelihood of the participant to feel comfortable enough as well as persuaded by a sale by a pictured individual. The format for the survey is a 41-question scenario survey. There are numerous scenarios that have a picture tied to them. Following the photo and the scenario is a set of questions pertaining to the scenario. Design and ProcedureThe project is designed as follows with the independent variable being the survey questions. The dependent variable that will be measured is the responses to the questionnaire. For the untainted sampling the participants will be randomly handed one of the two surveys. Two surveys are being administered so that some of the confounds that could exist will be removed. The counterbalancing measure that is taken is that in the two surveys there will be varying pictures. Other controls include the use of closed ended questioning, and the use of pictures where the individuals have the same attire, a suit and coat. This limits the confound of the attire of the individual pictured affecting the answer to the question. The procedure for the application of the survey is to first to have the participants come to an area where they can quietly take the survey, there can be more than one person taking the survey at one time. To begin with, the participant is handed an informed consent form saying that they are agreeing to take the survey and that if they experience any distress where to go.The survey then will be distributed to the participant. The surveys at the point of distribution should be mixed up with survey A and survey B being randomly put into a pile. The distribution of the survey will be done at random, in other words the participant will be handed either survey A or B at random. Upon the completion of the survey by the participant, the researcher collects the survey, thanks the participant for participating, and debriefs them explaining the purpose of the survey.

There were 74 participants in the study: 66.2% were Caucasian, 12.16% African-American, 16.21% Hispanic, 4.05% Asian-American, and 9.45% other (table 1). Of the participants 52.7% were male and 46.3% female (table 2) and they ranged in age from 18 to 66 (table 3). The first hypothesis tested involved the congruency between the age of the salesperson and the consumer. There was no significant relationship between the age congruence and reported willingness to buy a product r=-.138,ns. and p=.242. Next, we tested the outcome of the hypothesis between the salesperson and consumer being of the same gender. Using a male vs. female scale, which was a certain set of questions involving the issue of gender, there did appear to be a minor significance outcome in which women preferred to talk to men, but there was not enough support for the findings to be significant. This is supported by question 10, which bolstered the mean scores for men on form 1 which was based on a picture of a male (M=4.85, SD=.36), while form 2 which pictured a female bolstered results of (M=5.08SD=.65) for men. Despite these numbers, the study established no significance in the findings of a correlation between the race, gender, and age of the salesperson and the consumer t(72)=.762, ns.. No significance was found with the critical value being less than .05. Lastly, the third hypothesis was tested which stated that if there was congruence in the race of both the consumer and the salesperson that the sale would be more efficient and affective. There was a significance found between the two surveys in questions numbers 27, 28, and 29. It appeared that when using the Tukey a post hoc test comparing the Asian-Americans and Caucasians, the data approached significance p=.077 with an SE =.4449 (table 5). In examining numbers 27-29 which were photo-related questions showing an African-American male and a Caucasian-American male that the participants seemed to favor the African-American on both forms for question 27 t(72)=3.157, p=.002<.05, for question 28 t(72)=3.392, p=.001<.05, and for question 29 t(72)=-2.089, p=.0.40<.05I (Table 8). Despite these findings, significance could not be supported because the results seemed to be because of a confound involving the individual pictured.

The purpose of the study was to examine three different relationships with sales and prejudice. The first hypothesis was that, if there was congruence in the age of the consumer and salesperson, the sale would be more successful. The second hypothesis was that the sale would be easier if the gender of the salesperson and the consumer are opposite. The third and last hypothesis tested stated that the sale would be more successful if the race of the salesperson and consumer were to be the same. In examining the data, no significance was found to support any of the hypotheses, which is in contrast to the results by Appiah (2001) which found that congruence in race for both blacks and whites played a role in their decision making. He results of the study were unlike Mcvitte’s (2003), who studied the presence of prejudice in peoples accounts of their interaction and found that age was a factor in the relationships that they had with others. We found no significant results to support our hypothesis. One of the largest problems for our study was that there were many limitations. One limitation that existed was that while the sample that we had, was large, it was not evenly distributed throughout each of the categories that were being examined and was only taken from Loyola University. The power of the data was weaker than we had anticipated because of question interpretation by the small and non-diverse population. Also the racism defense mechanisms, which are defense mechanisms triggered by race-related questions that cause the individual not to want to be seen as having prejudice or being racist caused for problems with the data. The pictures used in the study also proved to be confounds. Extraneous variables were present in each of the pictures, which could have manipulated the answers of the participant. Some of the extra variables within the pictures were the clothing of the individual, posture, facial expression, setting, etc. Correct interpretation of a question is always a concern when creating a survey but within the context of this survey, the questions’ initial intent and interpreted intent limited the outcome of the answers. The participant never knew whether it was the product or the person that they were really supposed to be thinking about when marking an answer or the participants may have been focusing on whether or not the products in the questions were fairly priced. Many of the questions could have been restated to eliminate possible confusion of the participate in deciding whether they were looking at the question from the point of view of the vendor or based on what the product was. Clarifying the question could possibly help to limit the range of thought by the participant and thereby make the research clearer. Name limitations and questions could have contributed to the skewed outcome of the data and may have also created falsified data that would not fulfill the intended outcome. Another limitation for the study was the sample size and division. While we had 74, there were only 3 Asian-American participants, which greatly decreased the power that that group of individuals had in the study. This also occurred within the frequencies of age with their being a large sample of people under 22 with very few participants over 22. The racism defense mechanism also limited the results in that the answers were potentially not the true feelings of the participants, but were instead an attempt of the individual to defend their integrity. Also included in the study, other than the previously stated confound, is that some of the pictures involved double barreling. An example of this is number 17 on the surveys where the pictures upon comparison seem to contain not only a difference in race but also a difference in age. Some of the confounds of the questions included: differences in attractiveness, clothing, and differences in facial expressions, and other characteristics of the people pictured.To decrease the number of confounds and limitations and to better test the hypotheses there would need to be an equal distribution within each category that was examined: age, race and gender. Another focal point in new research in this area should be on question poignancy so that the researcher could control the basis for the participant’s decision. For instance, explaining to the participant what characteristics they needed to focus on in each example. This would keep the participant focused on the intended topic of the survey that the experimenter wanted. This study, while not finding any significant data, can be the framework for future studies on the issue of sales. A study of this sort can be helpful in either marketing and business or used to help create a better understanding of how different characteristics affect relationships. This type of research could prove beneficial for companies that wish to gain a better understanding of how to best sell a product to a particular group which could bolster higher profits, and could also help companies structure themselves in such a way to increase productivity. The study could also help people to better understand prejudice. A better knowledge of prejudice can help people lead a more open and happier life. In conclusion much more research on prejudice in sales is needed to understand the relationship that the consumer has to the salesperson, as well as how prejudice affect our daily lives. With continuing research there is potential for a better understanding of prejudice and its affects on business and, more importantly, the economy. Because of the magnitude of the issue of prejudice, much importance needs to be placed on having as large as well as diverse of a population as possible. Prejudice is not an issue that is limited to a small proportion of society and should be treated accordingly. Another issue for us was all of the confounding that occurred which limited the study. One of the limitation for the study was the sampling distribution and size. While we had 74 participants there were only 3 Asian American participants which greatly decreases the power that that group of individuals has in the study. This also occurred within the frequencies of age with their being a large sample of people under 22 and very few participants over 22. A racism defense mechanism also limited the results because the answers potentially were not the true feelings of the participants, rather they were answers that would defend their integrity. Also included in the study, other than the previously stated confounds is that some of the pictures involved double barreling. An example of this is number 17 on the surveys where the pictures upon comparison seem to contain not only a difference in race but also a difference in age. Also there was an issue of possible false interpretation of some of the questions, such as the ones attached to the pictures. The participant never knew whether it was the product or the person that they were really supposed to be thinking about when marking an answer. This study, while not finding any significant data, can be the framework for future studies on the issue of stereotypes and sales. Much more research in this area is needed to understand the relationship that the consumer has to the salesperson. Some of the possible implications for the study are that the

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Submitted 5/11/2004 1:25:23 PM
Last Edited 5/11/2004 1:28:41 PM
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