Matherly, Ted, Anastasiya Pocheptsova Ghosh and Yogesh Joshi (2019), “The Freedom of Constraint: How Perceptions of Time Limitations Alleviate Guilt from Two-Phase Indulgent Consumption,” Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 4 (2), 147-159. (Preprint)
When purchasing indulgent products, the characteristics of the purchase, such as price discounts and redemption windows (the amount of time available to consume the product), can affect the likelihood of purchase. We show how these characteristics jointly influence consumers’ likelihood of purchasing indulgent products and identify the consumer lay theories that drive this effect. Although price discounts can alleviate the anticipated guilt associated with indulgent consumption, we propose that consumers believe the guilt-reducing effects of discounts fade over time. In four experiments, we show that, based on this belief, consumers strategically protect their enjoyment of indulgent products by choosing shorter time periods to consume discounted indulgent purchases, and by preferring discounted indulgent products offered with shorter (versus longer) redemption windows. We find convergent evidence in sales data from a large discount offers website, observing higher purchase rates for discounted products with shorter redemption windows compared with those for longer ones.