Fake smiles. Customer reactions to employees’ display inauthenticity and choice restrictions

Thuy Rosie Pham, Andreas Lechner, Frank Mathmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Web of Science)


Frontline employees’ fake smiles (i.e., positive emotion display inauthenticity) frequently occur despite firms’ efforts to ensure real smiles in service delivery. Previous research on the effects of display inauthenticity on customers reveals considerable heterogeneity. Attempts to resolve this have largely been limited to stable and dispositional factors, which often escape managerial control. The present research investigates the impacts of display inauthenticity, choice restrictions, and their interaction on service performance. Choice restrictions may buffer inauthenticity effects as demonstrated by results from three factorial experiments in different contexts (e.g., restrictions of service provider choice in predelivery in Study 1 and in-store choice restrictions during service delivery in Studies 2 and 3). Frontline employees’ display inauthenticity negatively affects service performance only if customers are subjected to low but not high choice restrictions. The interaction effect is explained by customers’ interdependent self-construal and is generalizable to actual spending behaviors. Our findings inform managers about the interplay of increasingly common inauthenticity and choice restrictions due to market shocks such as COVID-19 and provide insights into managerial interventions that can be used to mitigate the effects of inauthenticity on customers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1078-1093
Number of pages16
JournalPsychology & Marketing
Issue number5
Early online date12 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes


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