One’s money ethic, the understanding of the function of money at individual levels, and the religious perspective on consumer ethical behavior based upon one’s deep-rooted religious beliefs, “Religiosity,” are dominant factors that heavily influence on consumer ethics. According to the results of a recent study by Scott J. Vitell, Professor of Marketing at the University of Mississippi, and et al. on the relationships of the roles of money ethics and religiosity with consumers’ ethical decision making, both of the determinants equally construct primary ethical beliefs in the context of regarding consumer practices with the following findings: (1) Money Ethics (“Love of Money”): a negative factor explaining unethical beliefs; and (2) Religiosity (“Intrinsic Religiousness”): a positive factor resulting in ethical beliefs. Therefore, this essay serves to explain such relationships of the aforementioned determinants in shaping consumer attitudes/behavior on the grounds of these findings.
(1) Money Ethics (“Love of Money”): a negative factor explaining unethical beliefs
The perception of the role of money at the individual level, or “Money Ethics,” which measures the ethical meanings attributed to money, has a negative effect on consumer ethics/beliefs. In fact, one’s money ethics is generally associated with “love of money” with a negative nuisance as proposed by Thomas Tang, with his devising of the MES (“Money Ethics Scale”) by which people assign the values of money.
According to the result of a nationwide (U.S.) questionnaire in 2004 sent to sample of 1000 adult consumers composed of reasonably well-educated men of 45 years old or younger with a median income of $55,000 per year, the respondents who regarded the value of money as a means of becoming “rich” showed lenient attitude toward dubious consumer behavior based upon the following dimensions by viewing them not necessarily as wrong, if not criminal: (i) the passive dimension (e.g., a situation in which the customer receives too much change from the seller by mistake but does nothing); (ii) the active, legal dimension (e.g., not telling the truth in negotiation of the price of a new car); and (iii) the no harm/no foul dimension (e.g., downloading free music from a website on your computer without buying an actual CD).
Such hypothesis proposed by Tang et al. (2002) provides that one’s money ethics plays a vital role in determining unethical behavior because the importance of the value of money precedes one’s ethical sensitiveness ascribed to the role of money. Correspondingly, the value of money as the measurement of one’s wealth is normally associated with the love of money that regards such controversial consumer behavior as “tolerable” subsequent to the hypothesis that the individual money ethics produces unethical attitude toward consumer ethics/beliefs as a result of the questionnaire.
One’s fundamental religious belief, or “Religiosity,” which is the internalization of role of expectations formed by religion, is a powerful co-element that has a positive effect on consumers’ ethical beliefs in the U.S. As a matter of fact, one’s religiosity is a set of principles by which one abides in determining the ethical nature of consumer attitudes and behavior.
In accordance with the findings established by Scott J. Vitell et al. (2005), the role of intrinsic religiousness as a positive factor contributes to making ethical decisions in consumer behavior. Based on the result of the aforesaid questionnaire conducted in 2004, the sample population with innate religious belief viewed the dimensions of controversial consumer activities such as the aforesaid as unacceptable or wrong, save “(iii) the no harm/no foul dimension” (e.g., downloading free music from a website on your computer without buying an actual CD).
Thus, the hypothesis that one’s religiosity is a powerful co-determinant of consumer ethical belief system corresponds to the perception of the doubtful consumer behavior as wrong as proved by the result of the questionnaire.
In light of the above, both one’s money ethics and inherent religious belief system as personal attributes play significant roles in making decisions in all aspects of consumer practices subsequent to the findings of the questionnaire conducted to the adult population in the U.S. However, in order to establish a firm theory on the relationship of the money ethics and the religiosity, it is suggested that a wide variety of population, including the comparison of men and women in terms of the degree of religious importance in relation to making ethical judgment, and more inclusive demographic population should be considered in a further research.