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‘Contentious’ research finds pretty people struggle in these industries

Do you relate to this problem? Images: Getty

Most research has found that attractive people earn higher pay, are more likely to land jobs and make more sales.

But there are some industries where winning the genetic lottery can work against you, new research from the University of Dayton in Ohio has revealed.

The research article, Is beauty a premium? A study of the physical attractiveness effect in service encounters found that people who view themselves as unattractive are more likely to feel they’ve experienced bad customer service when they encounter an attractive employee.

“Although contentious to some, our findings indicate that the recruitment of attractive representatives may be an effective business practice in service settings,” researchers Chun Zhang, Michel Laroche and Laoqi Li wrote.

“However, managers should not regard consumers as a homogeneous group; self-perceived unattractive consumers may respond negatively to their service representative's physical attractiveness.”

This is due to what the researchers described as the “distance” issue.

The closeness a customer felt towards a worker could be affected by their respective levels of attractiveness.

In a piece for The Conversation, Zhang said the researchers arrived at the conclusion after conducting tests on customers in hypothetical restaurants, passengers about to board a plane and shoppers at a mall.

They surveyed 237 people at Guangzhou airport in China, asking them to read a scenario about receiving a meal or service from a flight attendant, with participants viewing either an ‘attractive’ or ‘unattractive’ person. These definitions were based on earlier research into what made a person typically beautiful.

Participants then rated the attractiveness of the person, and the attractiveness of themselves, and also responded to prompts about whether they thought there was a connection between beauty and skill. The participants also rated the service received.

“We found that participants who saw themselves as less good-looking felt more distance from an attractive flight attendant and were also more likely to perceive the service as lower quality,” Zhang said.

“In addition, participants who said there isn’t a connection between beauty and skill also tended to assess attractive employees’ service as low quality.”

Similar studies of diners and shoppers returned comparable results, with each study finding people who deemed themselves less attractive more likely to find an unpleasant customer experience with an attractive worker.

“In a world that admires and hires beautiful people, our research suggests there’s a potential downside, at least in the service sector.”

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