Can’t wait to shop? Blame your surname, says study

Updated: Jan 19, 2011, 18:26 PM IST

Washington: Why do some people wait patiently to buy stuff while others rush to grab it?

The answer lies in your surname, according to a new study.

It found that the first letter of our last names determines how quickly we act on consumer opportunities as grownups.

“The tendency to act quickly to acquire items such as those above is related to the first letter of one`s childhood surname,” said Kurt A. Carlson of Georgetown University and Jacqueline M. Conard of Belmont University.

While looking at how quickly adults responded to opportunities to acquire ‘items of value’, they found that individuals were faster or slower to respond depending on where their last names fell in the alphabet.

Those with surnames that started with letters at the beginning of the alphabet were slower, while those whose surnames started with letters later in the alphabet were faster.

So why do the Abbotts wait, while the Zimmermans rush to buy? The researchers believe that it is because children with surnames near the end of the alphabet have spent their lives at the end of lines and at the back of classrooms.

“The idea holds that children develop time-dependent responses based on the treatment they receive,” they said.

“In an effort to account for these inequities, children late in the alphabet will move quickly when last name isn``t a factor; they will ``buy early,” they added.

Likewise, those with last names early in the alphabet will be so accustomed to being first that that individual opportunities to make a purchase won``t matter very much; they will ‘buy late’,” they said.

The researchers also said that the ‘last-name effect’ occurred only with childhood surnames, not names that had changed due to marriage.

The study is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.