Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Collier, Joel E.

Committee Member

Moore, Melissa

Committee Member

Moore, Robert S.

Committee Member

Taylor, Ronald D.

Committee Member

Doane, Stephanie M.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Business


Department of Marketing, Quantitative Analysis and Business Law


Consumer free riding occurs when consumers gather information about a product through a full-service retailer and then ultimately purchase that product from a limited-service retailer. This phenomenon is becoming more common as consumers have an increasing number of retail channels in which they can evaluate and purchase products. The prevalence of this behavior is causing problems for retailers, particularly small, specialty retailers, as they struggle to deter free riders. The goal of this research is to explore free riding in the context of small, specialty retailers in an attempt to isolate key factors which influence free riding behavior and which may give specialty retailers and managers insights and tools with which to combat this behavior. This is accomplished through three studies, two qualitative and one quantitative. In the two qualitative studies, detailed information regarding free riding motivations and experiences is gained through interviews and open-ended questionnaires. The information gathered in studies one and two is then used in conjunction with the Theory of Reasoned Action to create a model of free riding. The model was tested across four samples and includes firm-controllable factors which may influence free riding. This research yielded many insights into consumer free riding behavior. One of the most illuminating aspects of free riding uncovered through this research is the emotional factor associated with free riding for some consumers. This emotional element, a sense of obligation to purchase from the retailer, was discovered and explored. Factors such as desire to support local merchants, personal connection to the retailer and extra-role service were revealed as firm controllable elements that retailers might be able to use to influence purchase obligation and therefore deter free riders. Other factors, such as subjective norms, were also found to impact free riding attitudes, while the impact of price sensitivity on free riding met with mixed results in this study. The results of this research offer managers possible tools for deterring free riders and offer researchers future areas for research.