Vulnerable consumers

There’s currently an ESRC-sponsored seminar series on vulnerable consumers.  Of course, I completely agree that it’s important for researchers to make sure they represent marginalized groups but vulnerable consumers is another concept that I cannot stand.  To my mind it is a completely patronizing perspective to start from.  I’ve done some work on disabled consumers and it seems to me that by writing them into consumer research as vulnerable consumers researchers themselves make them a marginal consumer group.  Now when consumers with impairments are discussed it is within a frame of vulnerability – an abnormality.  The logically assumption being that if someone doesn’t match up with an implied “normal consumer” they MUST be disadvantaged and vulnerable.  I haven’t dared to do this, but I suspect if you did a survey and asked consumers with impairments something like ‘how do you cope with being vulnerable’ many would respond ‘i’m not vulnerable’.  More work is needed.

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