When sellers’ behaviour goes bad: Linking customer discrimination and customer’s visible characteristics


  • Aisha Jalil
  • Ahmed Usman
  • Rubeena Zakar


business ethics, customer discrimination, formal dressing, service delivery, visible customer characteristics


Do sellers treat their customers differently in the marketplaces of wealthy vicinities in Lahore, Pakistan? This paper details how customer discrimination is linked with customer’s visible characteristics, such as: clothing, accessories, age, gender, and other personal attributes. Two studies have been sequentially conducted: observational field study and semi-structured face-to-face interviews. The findings support the association of customer’s visible characteristics and discriminatory service delivery. Customer discrimination in Pakistan is neither racial nor gender-based; rather, it is associated with wealth, and the formal and modern visible characteristics of the customer. It highlights various forms of discrimination in levels of service delivery including delay, denial, neglect, and differentiated quality of products. It also demonstrates open discrimination against customers, including emotional, psychological, and physical abuse. Standards of business ethics are rarely implemented by retailers in Pakistan because the government exercises no control on the service quality of private retail organisations. International interventions to train the sales staff to be cordial, courteous and cooperative with all people in the shopping centres may improve the quality of customer service delivery in the main cities of the country.