Are people who shop at luxury stores mean?


If you ever need to borrow a cellphone you’d better avoid Fifth Avenue. According to a serious of social experiments, people who shop at – or are in close proximity to – luxury stores are just plain unhelpful.

The study, published in the Journal Social Influence, hypothesized that luxury stores may act as, “environmental reminders of materialism,” and that a person’s helpfulness would vary, “according to the presence or absence of such cues.”

All of the experiments took place in Paris. In the first, researchers had a woman with a crutch and a leg brace accidentally drop candy and a bottle of water. On a normal street, 77.5 percent of people helped the faux-injured woman. But on a street lined with luxury stores, only 35 percent of people helped retrieve her dropped treats.

In another, one woman, who was pushing another woman in a wheelchair, asked passersby if they’d mind waiting with her friend for a moment while she went to find her cellphone. In this scenario, 82.1 percent of people walking along a residential street agreed to stand with the woman in the wheelchair. Meanwhile, just 23.2 percent of people who were walking around the Place Vendôme – which is full of exclusive jewelry and watch stores – were willing to help.

And in the final experiment, a young woman asked strangers if she could borrow their cellphone. Just over 74 percent of people on a normal street handed over their phones, 63.3 percent of those on a street with a mixture of both luxury and middle-range stores did so too, and no surprises, only 40.8 percent of those on a luxury street felt like sharing.

The study concludes that “reminders of luxury shopping are more detrimental to helpfulness than reminders of non-luxury shopping.”

LLNYC is slightly dubious about the conclusiveness of the study. For one, all of those needing help were woman, damsel-in-distress syndrome anyone?

But primarily that infamous Parisian rudeness should be taken in to consideration. If the same study was conducted in New York, everyone would have been far more helpful…. probably.