The Last Name Effect – New Research Says Your Last Name Influences Shopping Habits


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Growing up with the last name Zeitz, I was always at the end of the line and the back of the classroom in school. But did it make me an impulsive shopper? Maybe so.

In grade school, I disliked how teachers would always choose alphabetically. Since my last name started with a “Z,” I would end up at the back of the line as the Adams and Abbotts of my class picked the best seats and projects. Back then, it struck me as an unfair system and a minor annoyance. Little did I know it might have left an emotional scar that could affect my shopping habits as an adult.

A new study by researchers at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business finds that those with last names falling toward the back end of the alphabet are more compelled to buy early. The reason boils down to the long-held practice of teachers lining their students up in alphabetical order when they were children, notes the study’s authors.

Those who are often at the end of the line feel like the ones at the beginning get treated advantageously, and in reaction to this mistreatment they develop a “general tendency toward expediency” later in life. “There are certain consumer promotions that look a lot like lining up – limited-time offers, limited availability, limited supply deals — people near the end of the alphabet find these offers more appealing and are more likely to respond to them,” noted Kurt Carlson, assistant professor of marketing at Georgetown’s business school. In comparison, children with last names at the beginning of the alphabet are so accustomed to being first that opportunities to make a purchase early don’t matter to them much, and as adults they buy later.

The paper discussing the study’s results, “The Last Name Effect: How Last Name Influences Acquisition Timing,” is published online in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Jill Z. McBride
Jill founded JZMcBride & Associates in 1996 to provide marketing, public relations, social media and event planning services and consultation. More than a decade later, the firm serves an impressive roster of consumer, business-to-business and non-profit clients. Jill's contagious energy, personal involvement and extensive industry knowledge infuses every endeavor of the group in order to help her clients grow.


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