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Personal factors related to consumer product disposal tendencies.

The ways consumers dispose of usable but no longer wanted products has become an increasingly important issue. While consumers select, acquire, use, and dispose of products, most researchers have focused on the first part of the cycle, limiting attention to brand choice and product acquisition (Rassuli and Harrell 1990). A few consumer theorists have noted that usage and disposition are both important aspects of consumer behavior (Holbrook 1987; Jacoby 1976; Nicosia and Mayer 1976), and the last phase of the process is now receiving increasing public attention. Recently, disposal has been added to definitions of consumer behavior in textbooks and has been highlighted as a relevant topic for research. Consumer researchers introduced disposal as an important topic in the late 1970s (Jacoby, Berning, and Dietvorst 1977); Hanson (1980b) developed a useful model of several salient factors involved in the disposition decision process. After a flurry of interest in consumer disposal in the early 1980s, research attention appears to have faded, although disposal has grown to be of considerable consequence to business, government, and consumer groups. Clearly, in light of current public concern about recycling and the worldwide landfill crisis, research in this area is both intellectually relevant and operationally timely.

This study investigates the rationales consumers use when selecting prevalent disposition options (keep, throw away, sell, donate with tax deduction, donate without tax deduction, and pass along) and continues the research stream initiated by Hanson (1980a). Essentially, a field study was conducted with consumers to learn more about how their characteristics relate to the selection of several important disposition options. Before presenting the research, a background discussion of disposal issues and research helps position this study. Secondly, a modified taxonomy and several research propositions are offered. Next, the study design and its findings are presented, followed by implications and directions for future research.


Post consumption impact of trashing products has become a grassroots public concern, encompassing issues such as disposal of goods, environmental protection, and recycling in an era of diminishing landfill capacity. Corson (1990) reported that in 1978 the United States had 20,000 landfills; by 1988, the number had dropped to 6,000 with 80 percent of solid waste going into landfills. In the past five years, 3,000 of these have been closed; by 1993, about 2,000 more will cease operations. While waste management organizations are constantly seeking sites for new landfills, the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) syndrome makes it difficult to expand.

Although consumers have many disposal options, disposal by trashing carries few negative consequences. Useful resources go unconsumed; with antiquated landfills not governed by recent regulations for clay or plastic liners, contaminants may seep into the water table (Commoner 1971), excrete noxious fumes, and/or spontaneously combust (Boraiko 1985; Corson 1990; Nichols 1988). Little wonder why landfills, which are often unsightly and expensive to build and maintain, are in limited supply (Corson 1990; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 1988; White 1983). Pollock (1987) has pointed out the difficulties municipalities face in attempting to manage the burgeoning solid waste created by consumers. She further notes that the recycling solution depends upon the cooperation of consumers as well as on the availability of markets for recovered materials. There is evidence that curbside recycling programs can be extremely expensive to taxpayers, relative to dumping, and are economically wasteful (Wiseman 1991). A number of new enterprises have arisen, directly or indirectly, from the trash that threatens to overwhelm us (Brammer 1986). Combined with manufacturer attention to eliminate product waste (Center for National Policy 1988), extending product life through disposition alternatives could reduce waste and resource depletion (Box 1983). Of particular importance is durable and semidurable waste because durables (e.g., appliances, etc.) comprise 13.6 percent of landfill waste while semidurables (e.g., clothing, books, etc.) comprise 25.1 percent (Council for Waste Solutions 1990). Interestingly, nearly 40 percent of U.S. waste may have extended use or redistribution potential. A more encompassing understanding of consumer disposition behavior has implications for resource utilization and waste disposal.

Redistribution adds a new perspective to conventional views of channel structure, which traditionally positioned the consumer as the end point in the channel of distribution. Instead the consumer may be viewed as a pivot point in a "channel of disposition." Backward channels involving the seller have been discussed (Zikmund and Stanton 1971) to include recycling, exchanges, returns, and trade-ins. Extended channels also involve a forward movement of goods to others, with or without the intervention of intermediaries.

While some extended channel organizations (resellers, charities) move goods on for reuse, others (waste haulers, landfillers) move goods that are trashed. The consumer's role in disposal can be deemed "responsible" if it prevents or delays the waste and pollution associated with trashing still useful items. Because others can acquire the good for free or at less than original cost, the potential to impact the overall standard of living is high. The process may occur through established redistributors (such as the Salvation Army and Volunteers of America), sporadic agents (for example, churches and other organizations that occasionally have clothing drives), or individuals (see Jaffee 1985). Additionally, when persons gain nontaxable income from selling or receive tax benefits from donating, from a macroeconomic perspective disposable income increases. Thus, public policy through tax regulations can affect the redistribution of free and low cost goods as well as the amount of personal disposable income.

Disposition Studies

An early investigation of product disposition choice involved six different products and proposed a taxonomy of disposal options (Jacoby, Berning, and Dietvorst 1977). Further research modified that taxonomy and related disposal behavior to demographic and psychographic profiles of different disposer types (Burke, Conn, and Lutz 1978). These early studies tended to deal with specified products, such as small electrical appliances. Other models that describe the consumer disposition decision process tend to focus on a problem solving orientation. Hanson (1980b) looked at the process using three significant elements--situation, object, and person variables. In another relevant body of literature, researchers focused on charitable donations (Smith 1979), tax deductions and philanthropic behavior (Schwartz 1970), and gift giving (Sherry 1983). The following section provides a taxonomy of disposition options based on findings from these and other studies.


A comprehensive typology of disposal choices in the extended channel involves a combination of nonaltruistic behaviors such as keeping, throwing away, and selling/swapping, as well as those which may have altruistic aspects such as giving away and donating. The following disposal options were identified.

Keeping: Chronic keepers, sometimes referred to as "pack rats," have the tendency to hoard items. Keeping has been regarded as an example of obsessive-compulsive behavior largely governed by personality traits (Leitner 1985). Although no immediate disposal actually occurs, keeping may account for a considerable quantity of no longer used items. This constitutes potential waste of resources that could be utilized by secondary owners.

Throwing Away: Discarding through the garbage system or trashing usable items may be viewed as irresponsible behavior. If, however, the owner of the good does not perceive value in it, s/he probably does not consider trashing it to be irresponsible (Burke, Conn, and Lutz 1978). Consumers who choose this option may not be aware of the societal affect.

Selling/Swapping: In both selling and swapping, a "price" is agreed upon by two parties. Whether the exchange takes place through a classified ad, garage sale, swap meet, or other means, the intent is economic. "Buyers" may be either acquaintances or strangers. In these modes of disposal, product lifer is extended.

Giving Away: Three disposal options may be classified in this category: passing along, donating with tax deduction, and donating without tax deduction. Jacoby, Berning, and Dietvorst (1977) considered these behaviors as one category. Burke, Conn, and Lutz (1978) treated donating and passing along to an acquaintance as two separate activities but did not separate donating into tax deduction versus no deduction. Reason exists, however, for regarding these three behaviors as distinct. Donating to a charitable organization usually results in the money or good being received by an individual unknown to the donor, whereas the recipient of a gift is one with whom the giver has some form of interpersonal relationship. Donating behavior has been associated with philanthropy of altruism, whereas gift giving has been associated with the norm of reciprocity; that is, something is expected in return. Passing along behavior seems to be more like gift giving and may be similar, as well, in that the passer may expect some favor to be returned.

Donating for tax deduction purposes also should be viewed as different from altruistic or pure donation. Schwartz (1970) proposed that both economic and altruistic factors influence donors who declare tax deductions for donations. His logic is that the act of donating is a "good" from which the donor receives utility, and the price of donating is the difference between the cash value of the donation and the tax benefit it generates. Because no tax benefit ever can be equal to the amount of the donation, however, some philanthropic element may be present in the act of tax-deductible donating. All three of the giving away options result in extended product life.


Although this study was designed to be exploratory in nature, several informal propositions were generated from the current literature. Naturally, a positive correlation between each disposition tendency and affect toward using that disposition option was expected. Self-perception theories, widely used in psychology, show that people generally justify their behaviors--"they do it because they like it." Also, it was expected that the tendency to use the keeping option would be negatively related to "liking to throw away" and that the tendencies to sell and to deduct would both be negatively related to "liking to donate." Keepers probably hate to throw things away, and users of options that provide economic return probably dislike giving something away for free.

More substantively, the tendency to use the pass-along option generated two conflicting propositions. First, if pass along is like gift giving, reciprocity might be expected and thus provide some form of "return." In such a case, tendency to pass along might be positively associated with "liking to sell" and/or "liking to deduct." Secondly, if pass-along behavior is more like altruism, there might be a positive relationship between the tendency to pass along and "liking to donate."

Finally, certain disposition rationales should naturally be linked to specific disposition tendencies. The disposition rationales are described more completely in the next section. The following propositions were generated.

Throwing Away and Keeping: Rationales expected to relate to these tendencies include concepts as not wasting time on such decisions, finding the easiest solution, and, for throwing away only, getting an annoyance out of the way. These disposal options require little thought or effort.

Selling and Deducting: Likely reasons to use these options would appear to be economic return, coming out ahead, feeling in control, and, for selling only, getting social interaction. Both selling and deducting represent a means to a financial end.

Donating: Assuming that anonymous altruism and a sense of social responsibility might underlie this tendency, it was expected that related concepts might be helping someone, not wasting the product, product appreciated by next owner, paying a debt, earning God's smile, and not knowing the next owner.

Passing: Recalling the two alternative explanations of pass-along behavior, concepts similar to those expected to be related to donating might also be related to passing. On the other hand, if passing-along items is more like gift giving than like donating, reciprocity-linked associations should occur, such as concepts of paying a debt, earning future favors, being seen as generous, and getting social interaction.


Sampling and Data Collection

A mail questionnaire was administered to a sample in a large mid-western town whose residents have considerable occupational diversity. The community is largely industrial, with a major U.S. Air Force base, two universities, and suburbs with rural atmosphere (surrounded by farms). A systematic sampling of the residential pages of the telephone directory was used to recruit 811 participants who agreed to respond to a mail survey. Explicit procedures were provided to deal with disconnected numbers and refusals. Each respondent was given a brief description of the study and asked to participate.

The Questionnaire

Participants received a three-part questionnaire related to rationales/reasons for using disposal options, disposal tendencies/attitudes/types, and demographic characteristics.


Statements were used to measure justifications the consumer might use in selecting a particular disposal option. Several factors were suggested by Razzouk (1980), such as the cost, effort, and monetary return that might result from the option chosen. An extensive preliminary list of statements was generated through personal interviews and subsequently reduced to the 15 items determined by a panel of experts to be most relevant and nonredundant. Table 1 lists the rationales. These statements were rated by survey respondents on seven-point agree/disagree scales.

Disposal behavior tendencies

Behavioral tendencies were measured by asking respondents to divide 100 percentage points across the six product disposition options to indicate how likely to they were to use each option given the following simple situation.

Assume that, while searching for some misplaced item, several items are discovered which have not been used in so long a time as to be forgotten. These items are of moderate value, in usable condition, and have no sentimental value.

Respondents also were instructed to assume that no joint decision-making was involved. The determination of what constitutes "moderate value" was left to the individual so as not to attach an economic value and bias the selection of selling versus nonselling alternatives. Based on research of others and the researchers' new partitioning of the give-away option, the six disposal options offered to respondents were (1) keep the item, (2) sell the item, (3) pass along to an acquaintance, (4) donate the item for a tax deduction, (5) donate without seeking a tax deduction, and (6) throw away the item.

Affect. To derive attitudes toward the options, unidimensional affect statements were provided to elicit the extent to which respondents liked or disliked using each of the six disposal options (using a seven-point scale).

Disposer type. In addition, respondents were asked to classify themselves as "planner" or "spontaneous" disposers using a dichotomous question, intentionally designed to represent mutual exclusivity. Respondents were asked to indicate which type they are most similar to:

Planner Disposer: This person has a fairly systematic, planned way of deciding what to do with usable but no longer used items in the home.

Spontaneous Disposer: This person responds to disposal situations as they come up and does not give much thought beforehand to what to do with usable but no longer used items in the home.


The final section of the questionnaire asked several demographic questions. Many of these characteristics have been shown to be related to other measures of environmental concern. For a review of the literature on the demographic characteristics of environmentally responsible citizens, see Van Liere and Dunlap (1980).


Of the 811 questionnaires sent, 417 (51 percent) were returned in usable form. Sample characteristics indicated an adequate representation of the community in question. The average age was 43 years; 68 percent of the respondents were female, 32 percent male (a fairly typical survey proportion); and 74 percent were married, 26 percent other than married. In terms of education, 35 percent had completed high school or less, 38 percent had some college or an undergraduate degree, and 27 percent had more than an undergraduate degree. Planner Disposers constituted 45 percent of the sample. Demographics of the Planner subsample were almost identical to that of the aggregate sample except that women were more likely to be Planners than men.


A schema depicting the results of individual disposal tendencies is provided in Figure 1. The diagram shows the flow of goods that is likely to result in the extended channel for those individuals who claim to be Planner Disposers. The Planner Disposer subsample was used as the focal group in order to be more consistent with Hanson's (1980b) disposition problem solving model. Planners would appear, by their forethought, to be more highly involved than Spontaneous Disposers.

Given the "moderate value reusable item" scenario, over two-thirds of the Planners' decisions indicated tendencies to select a redistributive extended channel option. About one-fourth (22 percent) of the decisions would result in keeping the product, while roughly eight percent would result in throwing the item away. This suggests that, given the sample situation, a fairly significant amount of extended channel redistribution of goods likely occurs.

The behavioral tendencies of respondents were correlated with their attitudes (affect) toward each option and their responses to the rationale statements. These data are presented in Tables 2 and 3. Each of the affects was positively correlated (p = .00) with its respective disposition tendency, and 13 of the 15 rationale statements were significantly associated with at least one disposition tendency. All tendencies were associated with at least three rationales. The demographic characteristics associated with tendency to use each disposal option are discussed below.

Keeping Behavior

Planner Disposers, on average, reported that they would keep 22 percent of their no longer used, still usable household items. As TABULAR DATA OMITTED Table 2 shows, keeping was strongly associated with liking to keep and negatively associated with liking to throw away (as predicted) and liking to pass along to acquaintances or donate. These attitudes suggest that, if strategists were to try to reduce keeping behavior so that unused resources could be moved on to others, they would be more successful if they encouraged selling or deducting rather than donating or passing.

Two rationales associated with keeping reinforce this suggestion. As keeping was positively associated with "liking to get an economic return" and "liking to come out ahead of the game," it would appear that selling and deducting might appeal to these individuals. This is not to say that all kept items will eventually be used as a means of producing "revenues." Clothing, toys, etc. may be used by younger children or even grandchildren, thereby representing a good economic "return on investment." Assumptions about keeping as an easy solution were not supported, so the effort involved in selling might not be a problem. Donating and passing would not be appropriate alternatives because keeping was negatively associated with "liking to help someone." Attitudes and rationales all consistently supported the strategic implication that one cannot expect much success by appealing to a concern for the welfare of others in order to switch keeping behavior to donating or passing behavior.

Based on respondent demographics, the tendency to keep was negatively related to age and to number of residences over a lifetime. The young and those who have not moved often are probably less concerned with the problems of accumulating and may find keeping to be no annoyance. Additionally, differences were found between TABULAR DATA OMITTED sexes and among education levels. Women are less likely to keep than men. Those with a college degree were most likely to keep, while those with only some college education were least likely to keep.

Throwing Away Behavior

On average, eight percent of the subsample's behavioral tendencies were to throw away the no longer used, still usable household item in the situation provided. Throwing away was positively associated with liking to throw away and negatively associated with liking to pass along to acquaintances. The latter option does not appear to be considered a viable alternative to this group. Interestingly, no rationales were found to be positively associated with throwing away. It had been proposed that "finding the easy solution" might be an underlying rationale, but this proposition was not supported. As might be expected, throwing away is not associated with a concern for others. Negative associations with "helping someone" and "preferring not to waste the product" suggest little possibility for stimulating more "responsible" disposition among those who tend to use this option.

Throwing away is also negatively associated with age and number of residences in a lifetime. Significant differences in throwing away tendencies were found by marital status, education, and ownership of residence. Younger people were more likely to engage in this "irresponsible" behavior as well as those who have not lived in many different residences. Perhaps, as consumers mature and move more often, they see the inherent value of products.

Single persons were most likely to throw away; widowers were least likely to do so. Those who had not completed high school were most likely to throw away, while those with a college degree were least likely to do so. Those owning residences were less likely than nonowners to throw away.

Selling Behavior

Planner Disposers on average elected to sell about 15 percent of no longer wanted products. Selling was found to be positively associated with liking to sell and negatively associated (as predicted) with liking to donate. It appears that soliciting product contributions from chronic sellers is a lost cause, unless tax deductibility is stressed as a benefit.

Rationales associated with selling support the above directional indicators. Selling was positively associated (as predicted) with "liking an economic return," "liking to come out ahead," and "liking to get some social interaction in the process." It was also associated with "liking to get an annoyance out of the way." In addition, it was positively associated with "liking to be seen as generous," "liking to think God will smile" on the behavior, "liking to feel that one has earned the right to be on the receiving end," and "liking to feel that a debt has been paid." These rationales might be satisfied somewhat by donating for tax deduction purposes as well as by selling. It does appear useful for soliciting organizations to stress donating as a means of nonwaste with this segment, as this rationale is negatively associated with selling tendency.

While no demographic variables were found to have a significant relationship with selling, it is useful to note that selling is associated with numerous rationales. This suggests that people may justify selling for a variety of reasons involving personal return (economic or noneconomic).

Deducting Behavior

Planner Disposers tended, on average, to choose donating for tax deducting purposes in 13 percent of such disposal decisions. Deducting was found to be positively associated with liking to deduct and negatively associated with liking to donate (as predicted), pass, keep and sell.

It is important to note that the more likely an individual is to deduct, the less s/he likes to donate without a tax deduction. This finding has implications for tax policy, as, if deductibility of donations is removed or reduced, the deducter may be unlikely to continue making such contributions. Additionally, the negative associations between deducting and other responsible options lead to the conclusion that the deducter might switch to the only behavior for which there is a more accepting attitude--throwing away.

Rationales associated with deducing lend some support to this conclusion. Deducting was positively associated with "getting an economic return," as expected. It was negatively associated with "liking to feel the product would be appreciated by the next owner." Apparently, deducters do not overly concern themselves with the welfare of others. Part of the justification for deducting includes anonymity, as "not knowing the next user" was somewhat positively associated with deducting. This rationale may help to explain why deducters do not like to pass items to acquaintances.

Demographic differences seem to play an important role in the tendency to deduct. Those with graduate degrees were most likely to deduct, while those who had never completed high school were least likely to deduct. Also, those with no political preferences were significantly less likely than both Republicans and unspecified "other" political preferences to deduct.

Higher incomes households were significantly more likely to select deducting than were those with lower income levels. This finding seems appropriate as lower level income households typically do not itemize and usually have little need to find tax deductions. Homeowners were significantly more likely to engage in deducting than were nonowners. The former are probably more accustomed to recording deductible expenses, because they usually file the long tax form to declare mortgage interest.

Donating Behavior

Donating without a tax deduction occurred, on average, in 18 percent of the subsample respondents' decisions. Donating was found to be positively associated with liking to donate and negatively associated with liking to deduct, keep, sell, and pass. Interestingly, donating was not negatively associated with liking to throw away. This latter option might be one to which the donor would switch if donating were not an available option.

Some insight into the preceding might be gained by examining the rationales associated with donating. Donating was found to be positively associated (as predicted) with "helping someone" and "feeling that the product will be appreciated by the next owner." However, the positive association with "not knowing the next user" (also as predicted) suggests that donors may, in part, choose this option because they dislike knowing specifically who will be using their former possessions. This sense of anonymity cannot be obtained if one engages in passing or selling activities.

As donating was negatively associated with "getting an economic return" and "coming out ahead of the game," it is logical that donors exhibit a negative attitude toward both deducting and selling. A dislike of other selfish motives was demonstrated by negative associations with "being seen as generous," "earning the right to be on the receiving end in the future," "earning God's smile" (reverse of prediction), "feeling a debt has been paid" (reverse of prediction), and "getting some social interaction in the process."

A strategic implication for this segment is that donating is likely to continue as long as organizations are available as a channel for such behavior. Negative attitudes toward other options may indicate that donating may sometimes be chosen by default. The question remains as to whether donors would find throwing away to be the only other alternative, as it does indeed prevent personally knowing a subsequent user and does not generate a "selfish" gain, both factors that were shown to be undesirable to donors.

Of the demographic characteristics, only three variables showed significant association with donating. Age was positively associated with the tendency to use this disposition option, while the number of persons in the household was negatively associated with this tendency. Females were significantly more likely than males to engage in donating.

Passing Behavior

Planner Disposers on average chose to pass along items in 24 percent of the disposal decisions. Passing was found to be positively associated with liking to pass and with liking to donate. It was negatively associated with liking to deduct. Rationales also help explain the likes and dislikes of passers regarding other disposition options. Passing was positively associated with "feeling the product won't go to waste" and "helping someone." Passing was negatively associated with "getting an economic return" which might explain the lower acceptance of deducting.

One alternative model of passing represents as reciprocal type of activity, in that it can be used as "payment of debt" or "building of credit" with one's acquaintances. However, none of the rationales suggesting reciprocity was significantly associated with passing. Had this model of passing been supported, it might be futile to attempt to persuade passers to donate. Given the results, however, there appears to be support for the alternative proposition that passing has much in common with donating.

Passing was found to be related to two demographic characteristics. Number of residences in lifetime was positively associated with passing, and significant differences were found across education levels as to the tendency to pass. Persons achieving an educational level of high school only were most likely to pass, while persons having a college degree were least likely.


It is important to recognize that the research presented is exploratory. Given the scarcity of product disposal studies, this research was based on findings from related fields and a large degree of observational logic. While the research attempted to control for several situational factors and randomize for product-specific factors, the design limits the generalizability of the findings regarding specific product classes and situations. Also, the study focused on the 45 percent of the sample that classified themselves as Planner Disposers. Spontaneous Disposers may be more difficult to address if they are not "involved" enough to give forethought to such decisions.

The results of this study do, however, suggest some important relationships between consumers' attitudes toward using the options, rationales, and the manner in which they tend to dispose of usable items. Thirteen of the 15 rationale statements were associated with at least one disposition tendency. Many of these relationships were similar to the research propositions. While many other personal, object, and situational factors could come into play, understanding reasons for disposal choices can be of value to many sectors. Demographics related to tendencies can be useful in shaping messages to those most likely to use certain options. Extended channel research such as this can provide implications in both theory and application for marketing channels, tax policy, charitable organizations, and macroeconomic and environmental strategies. Each implication section concludes with a suggestion for relevant future research.

Channel Theory Implications

On average, only 22 percent of Planner Disposers' decisions resulted in keeping no longer used, still usable items of moderate value, while eight percent of the decisions were to throw away. This means that 70 percent of the decisions would result in channeling goods to other organizations or individuals for redistribution. It is quite possible that higher value items would be even more likely to move beyond the initial owner. Thus, a substantial amount of extended channel activity appears to take place among Planner Disposers. Research is needed to investigate the consumer's awareness of his/her important role as an intermediate member in the "channels of disposition," because nonawareness would limit constructive participation in the process. The understanding of Spontaneous Disposers in this regard deserves particular attention.

Positioning Strategies

On a strategic level, understanding the factors that encourage extended channel activity may allow producers to position certain products more appropriately. For example, a well-known brand of baby clothes is promoted as being so durable that the child outgrows them before they wear out. Because this brand seeks a "premium" segment (e.g., givers of baby gifts), making a less durable, cheaper product is the business of other brands who seek a different segment. Recognition of the extended channel could lead to expanded promotional messages for the premium brand, such as the added social benefits of donating and passing, or the economic value from deducting or selling the product after using it. Practitioner market research is needed to determine the appropriate benefits to stress to this market. Thus, the concept of extended channel offers important implications both for marketing theory and for application.

Tax Policy Implications

Donating products is generally considered a desirable "redistribution of wealth," which society seeks to encourage partially through tax deductions. Eliminating, reducing, or making tax benefits for donations inconvenient will affect the extended distribution of goods. The study findings suggest that those who engage heavily in deductible donating are concerned about economic return and, unlike purely charitable donors, are not altruistically motivated. Restricting tax incentives has the potential to greatly reduce this flow of goods as a sizeable percentage of all donating behavior examined here involved tax deduction. In addition, tax deduction limitations might also lead to greater landfill accumulation, because the tendency to use deducting was negatively correlated with preferences to all other options except throwing away. Thus, some donors may choose simply to throw away goods if faced with an absence of deductions. Policymakers should be aware of the possible impact of altering policy in this regard. Recent tax reforms that removed deductibility of donations for nonitemizers present issues that merit further focused research as to the actual impact on the in-flow of donations to organizations such as the Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, and Volunteers of America.

Implications for Charitable Organizations

Charitable organizations may develop marketing strategies by applying results of extended channel research. For example, those who seek donations might consider which disposal behaviors can be switched to donating and develop marketing appeals to alter disposal activities. This is particularly important if tax deductions for charitable donations are reduced further.

Based on these findings, passing is a disposition behavior which might be switched to donating. Passing was positively associated with liking to donate, with "helping someone," and with "not letting the product go to waste." Charitable organizations could design targeted messages to persuade passers to donate instead. Given that passing is negatively associated with "getting an economic return," tax deductibility does not appear to be a desirable aspect of donating for this target group of disposers. As was abundantly clear in the present study, passing is a somewhat baffling activity, but one that deserves more research in that it does seem to have the potential to be switched to donating behavior.

Implications for Macroeconomics

Selling, donating, deducting, and passing all provide a flow of merchandise to secondhand users that comprise an "underground economy." Secondary consumption through extended channels can affect GNP to the extent that these exchanges reduce purchases of new merchandise. One might expect this reduction in purchases of new goods to be most pronounced during recessions. However, the effect might carry over into subsequent periods of general economic improvement, if consumer acceptance of used goods evolves into fads, such as the "vintage dressing" phenomenon. While this secondary "consumption" may present a threat to traditional merchants and producers of new products, merchandisers of used goods have been able to capitalize on this opportunity. Additionally, money saved by purchasing used goods in one product category might actually be used by individuals to purchase new goods in other product categories. A macroeconomic study of the relationship of new good sales and used good sales could provide interesting insights.

Environmental Implications

The implications of consumer disposal behavior and its impact on the environment are numerous. In addition to the desirability of resource conservation from both economic and quality of life perspectives, society confronts increasingly urgent waste management and landfill problems. A solution is redistribution which depends largely on the behavior of consumers. Public policy cannot mandate responsible disposal through extended channels. However, the better the understanding of consumer attitudes and motivations, the better equipped society is to modify patterns of waste and product disposal to achieve societal goals. Strategies to stimulate socially responsible redistribution activity could be a significant outgrowth of extended channel research. This domain of environmentally responsible behavior is different from the typical ecological orientation of recycling nonusable items (such as packaging materials) addressed in most former studies. Consumer disposal of still usable durables and semidurables is thus a unique issue that deserves further research. To understand more fully the magnitude of positive impact derived from delaying a product's arrival at a landfill, an innovative researcher might find data to estimate total cubic yardage of landfill space that would have been used to "bury" the items that were, instead, sold in one summer of garage sales or collected in one year's pre-Christmas toy and clothing drives by churches and charitable organizations.

Gilbert D. Harrell is Professor of Marketing, Eli Broad Graduate School of Management, Michigan State University, East Lansing; and Diane M. McConocha is Associate Professor of Marketing, Miami University, Oxford, OH.


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TABLE 1 Rationales for Disposal Behavior

I can get some economic return for them. I have helped someone. I have somehow come out ahead of the game. The product won't go to waste. The product will be appreciated by the next owner. I have somehow paid a debt. I earned the right to be on the receiving end sometime in the future. I have found the easiest solution for dealing with unwanted products. I have gotten an annoyance out of my way. I like to feel that God will smile on me. I can have some social interaction in the process. Others see me as generous. I like the idea of not knowing who's using my former personal possessions. I like feeling in control of the situation. I cannot afford to waste much time on such decisions.
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Author:Harrell, Gilbert D.; McConocha, Diane M.
Publication:Journal of Consumer Affairs
Date:Dec 22, 1992
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