Internet helps to blur moral dilemmas of young consumers

The study found that 'wardrobing'  where someone buys an item of clothing, wears it, then returns it for a refund  may be becoming more acceptable. Picture: Getty Images
The study found that 'wardrobing'  where someone buys an item of clothing, wears it, then returns it for a refund  may be becoming more acceptable. Picture: Getty Images
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Would you keep quiet if you were undercharged in a restaurant? Or would you return clothing to a shop after you’d already worn it

Research suggests young people have a morally more lax attitude to money than their elders, and the rise of the internet and new technology is having an impact.

The study found that “wardrobing” – where someone buys an item of clothing, wears it, then returns it to the retailer for a refund – may be becoming more acceptable. One in three (32 per cent) 18 to 29-year-olds surveyed find it acceptable to “wardrobe” something they have bought online. A smaller percentage (11 per cent) of people aged between 50 and 59 years old, believe doing this is acceptable, the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI) found.

The research looked at the relationship between “faceless technology” and someone’s willingness to behave less ethically by attempting to get their money back when they know they are not really entitled to do so.

The findings suggest behaving unethically may be deemed more acceptable when it affects a company or large commercial entity, rather than a person.

While 17 per cent of people surveyed would find it acceptable to wear and return an item they had bought online, only 11 per cent would find it acceptable to do this at a local shop, where they would be face-to-face with a store assistant.

The idea of taking back in person something that had been worn was less acceptable than returning it online across the generations, with 23 per cent of 18 to 29-year-olds and 6 per cent of 50 to 59-year-olds finding it acceptable.

The thought of brazening it out at the tills with a queue of tutting customers waiting behind may well put some people off trying their luck.

The research found that men and women seem equally inclined towards buying and returning clothing they have bought online, with both 17 per cent of men and women finding this acceptable.

But there were situations where men appeared to be willing to behave less ethically than women. Nearly one in three (29 per cent) men surveyed thought it would be acceptable not to report a mistake a bank had made in their favour, compared with 19 per cent of women.

Meanwhile, 17 per cent of men but only 11 per cent of women thought it was acceptable to go over the top when it comes to making an insurance claim.

The survey asked people how acceptable they would find it if, following a meal with a group of friends, they noticed the waiter had left off a round of drinks bought at the bar beforehand when adding up the bill.

Two-fifths (39 per cent) of people would find it acceptable to say nothing and pay the amount shown on the bill. Again, there were age variations, with 51 per cent of 18 to 29-year-olds versus 35 per cent of 50 to 59-year-olds finding this acceptable.

Simon Culhane, chief executive of the CISI, says: “This survey has demonstrated that ethical behaviour and motivation on a day-to-day basis can be affected by gender, age and money.”

He says technology is a significant factor, as it has removed the need to interact face-to-face, which “could point to our becoming desensitised to the person behind the corporate entity, firm or online retailer”.