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Sales staff found recommending more round-shaped products for overweight customers

In a series of studies, researchers from the Society for Consumer Psychology learnt that sales employees were more likely to reassure heavy customers to buy round-shaped products.

In one experiment, a trained actress posing as a shopper asked for wristwatch and perfume recommendations from 37 sales people at a suburban shopping mall. Half of the time she seemed as her natural body size, 4 feet, 11 inches tall and 102 pounds, and the remaining time she wore a professionally created prosthesis that made her look obese.

As the researchers predicted, the sales personnel suggested rounded watches and perfume bottles when she appeared obese, and they suggested narrower, rectangular products when she was thin.

They launched a similar experiment online using a digitally manipulated image of a sample consumer who looked either thin, moderate in weight or obese. The participants selected products that they believed the different consumers would prefer, and they chose between angular and round mirrors, lamps, candles and other items. Again, rounded products were chosen more consistently for the obese customers and angular products were more common for the thinner customers.

To see if the effect was similar with obese males, the researchers conducted the same experiment with a digitally manipulated male customer, and the outcomes were consistent.


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