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Is the Customer Always Right? The Potential for Racial Bias in Customer Evaluations of Employee Performance


Mike Lynn, 552 Statler Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-6902. E-mail:


With the encouragement of marketing scholars, many companies are tying employee incentives to customer ratings of satisfaction, service quality, or employee performance. One potential drawback to these practices is that customers' evaluations of employees—and, therefore, any associated rewards—may be biased by employee race. This possibility was examined in a restaurant setting. We found that customers rated the promptness and attentiveness of same race servers more favorably than different race servers, but there were no differences for assessments of server friendliness or appearance. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.