Want to improve your chances of surviving a climb to the summit of Mount Everest? Don't go climbing with entitled jerks, or people who feel vast sums of money makes one person superior to another.
Russell W. Belk, a professor of marketing with the Schulich School of Business at York University, and Gülnur Tumbat with San Francisco State University produced a research paper that proves having a platinum VISA isn’t a guaranteed ticket to a transcendent experience.
More specifically, just because you can pay top price to take you and your executive team to the top of Mount Everest doesn’t mean you will be able to bond or work in tandem with the people you are travelling with.
“In order to escape the rules, contraptions, and stresses of daily life in the city, many people search for new and liberating experiences that transcend their normal bureaucratic and corporate existence,” wrote the authors.
The authors focused on people who paid a premium to scale Everest. Tumbat has experience climbing and was able to work with touring companies and interview guides. She also spent time at base camp interviewing climbers.
“Although we were initially guided by the expectation of more of a communitarian spirit, we came to realize that consumer behavior scholars had failed to appreciate and understand the competitive, individualistic, and status-seeking aspects of such activities,” the authors write.
The paper Marketplace Tensions in Extraordinary Experiences will be published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
The average climber on a guided expedition (at least the ones studied) could pay between (US) $65,000 to (U.S.) $100,000.
It seems climbers operating in that pay bracket were more inclined to jostle for status and experience a forced sense of camaraderie, compared to actually bonding or escaping the highly competitive pace of their daily lives.
“Money versus personal skill and experience compete as climbers argue that they deserve to summit the mountain while others there do not," the authors wrote.
That means the climbers actually judged people on their worthiness to be on the mountain by the money they paid, or made in daily life. There was a sense the people with more money had earned the right to be there and more importantly to reach the summit, the report showed.
On a personal note: In a setting as dangerous as Everest I would be terrified to be travelling with someone who put their own interests above everyone else. Not that I have ever attempted to scale anything larger than a ski hill, but in terms of survival, I'm pretty sure selfish behaviour during any kind of team expedition is a quick way for people to get killed.
So what did the authors conclude?
“What we found in the context of Mount Everest is individualism, competitiveness, contradiction, and power-seeking through extreme experiences purchased from what is now known as the experience economy,” they said.
“Our study finds that extraordinary experiences, when bought in the marketplace, can be destructive of feelings of camaraderie and reinforce an individualistic and competitive ethos that I, the climber, am the only one who matters.”
At least there is no way to get a Hummer into base camp.