Consumer participation in commercial hospitality
Purpose – This paper examines customers’ participation in the production of commercial hospitality.\ud Drawing on a study of queer consumers (i.e. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals), the\ud paper considers the ways in which frequently circulated understandings, or myths, shaped consumers’\ud actions. The case study is used to highlight previously under examined dimensions of participation.\ud Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws on an ethnographic study of bar culture. The\ud principal method of data collection was participant observation, which involved working at one venue\ud for 27 months, as well as social visits throughout a five-year period. Participant observation was\ud complemented by semi-structured interviews with 26 informants, 19 of whom were interviewed\ud repeatedly during the research.\ud Findings – The paper suggests that three myths were evident in consumers’ behavior: commonality,\ud mutual safety, and the opportunities for liberated, playful consumption. Focusing on two particular\ud aspects of participation: performative display and frontline labor, the paper discusses the ways in\ud which these myths influenced patrons’ actions.\ud Research limitations/implications – The study suggests that an examination of the cultural\ud dimensions of patronage provides crucial insights into consumer participation. The results will be\ud relevant to social scientists and management academics seeking to understand the relationship\ud between shared interest and identity, consumption, and the production of hospitable spaces.\ud Originality/value – This study provides a new understanding of both the nature of and motivations\ud for consumer participation. This challenges existing approaches, which have tended to focus narrowly\ud on the managerial aspects of participation in the service sector.
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