Shoppers are more likely to drop hard-earned dollars at luxury stores if salespeople are snooty and condescending, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia.

Co-author Darren Dahl has dubbed the phenomenon the “Pretty Woman effect” after a scene in the hit Julia Roberts film where her character is insulted at a posh boutique.

Dahl said his research was inspired by a similar situation where a rude employee gave him the cold shoulder as he tried to buy cologne.

Irked by her behaviour, Dahl opted to buy two bottles instead of one.

“I wanted to show that I did belong in the store and I could afford it,” he said.

For the study, customers were told to interact with salespeople then rate their desire to own the brands being sold.

Surprisingly, those who were treated poorly reported an increased appetite to own the associated merchandise – at least in high-end stores.

“This only worked for brands and stores that customers would aspire to, truly luxury brands like Burberry or Gucci,” Dahl said. “For lower-end, mainstream retailers – Gap and American Eagle, these types of stores – this type of effect doesn’t happen.”

Though the effect may result in higher sales in the short term, researchers found mistreated customers eventually grew to resent the brands after reflecting on their experiences.

“In the moment it seems to work really great but in the long term it seems to have a boomerang effect,” Dahl said.

The study, titled Should the Devil Sell Prada? Retail Rejection Increases Aspiring Consumers’ Desire for the Brand, is appearing in the October 2014 edition of the Journal of Consumer Research.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Shannon Paterson