The Pink Tax, an emerging trend in the consumer retail market, describes the unfair premium placed on women-specific retail purchases. And despite the increasing attention to this trend, this biased pricing against women is unlikely to disappear anytime soon.
"Go down to your local CVS, department store, salon, or even your dry cleaners, and you'll find that products marketed towards women cost more money than those geared for men," states DealNews.com in a recent report. "That includes everything from cosmetics and bathroom supplies to clothing and salon services."
Deal News defines the Pink Tax as the additional costs women pay for nearly identical products. "It may be a few cents here and a few cents there, but added up, it can put a dent in your bank account," the website states.
The report cites a 2015 report from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs that revealed comparable male/female products are biased against women, as they pay 7% more for those comparable products. To boot, the female version of a products costs more 42% of the time.
"Some critics deny the existence of the Pink Tax, saying that certain women's products and services -- like clothing, razors, cosmetics, and dry cleaning -- are more expensive to manufacture or perform due to certain design aspects, like more curves in clothing or flexibility in razors," says Benjamin K. Glaser, features editor at Deal News. "But investigations have found holes in this theory, when two identical items -- like identical painkillers from the same brand, but marketed differently -- are found to have different costs when targeted at women."
It is possible the contrast in gender product pricing is simple supply and demand, Glaser notes. "Female consumers have acclimated to spending more on certain products and in certain areas, and companies set prices accordingly," he adds. "When it comes to major items like automobiles, the problem is more pronounced, as the Pink Tax can cost women hundreds more on a single transaction. Again, it seems salespeople aim to get the highest sum possible out of prospective buyers, and consciously or consciously think women will pay more."
Either way, demographic experts say enough is enough, and the gender pricing disparity has to stop.
"The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs report shows that in today´s marketplace, depending on what you buy, there can be a tangible cost associated with being a woman," says Dr. Wendy Patrick, a business ethics lecturer at San Diego State University. "Women, as you can imagine, are crying foul, arguing that pink should be the new blue. In other words, in the marketplace, gender neutral pricing is necessary to level the consumer playing field."
Consumer financial experts say the higher product costs for women, while unfair, are fairly easily explained. "The way we perceive women's products could explain why there are gender-based markups," notes Patty Cathey, a financial advisor with Smart Retirement Plan in Denver, Colo. "Many men's products are often seen as generic and not necessarily just for men, but the women's version -- with its pink packaging -- seems more of a specialty product. We're willing to pay more because we think we're getting more."
Cathay cites a major retail chain that was selling a red scooter for boys and a pink version of the same scooter for girls. "The scooter marketed to boys was priced at $24.99," she said. "The pink scooter for girls? $49.99. Women also pay way more for hair cuts of comparable times and pay a whopping 48% more than men for things like shampoo and conditioner."
If you're still not buying the Pink Tax accusation, just walk into a pharmacy and look around, says Mike Catania, consumer finance expert and co-founder of PromotionCode.org. "Check out the travel-sized cotton swabs: the ones in the pink box are ten cents more than the identical-in-every-other-way swabs in the bin next packaged in a blue box," Catania states. "Most online retailers have moved away from this model, because identical products are frequently listed on the same page, making the discrepancy more obvious."
Society itself, and the perceived pressure it places on women to look their best, may factor into higher pries, as well.
"There is a Pink Tax, but that's because women are more demanding than men when it comes to personal hygiene and grooming standards," offers Heidi Hecht, founder of the NothingInParticular.com blog. "Men can take a shower, brush their hair, brush their teeth, maybe shave, put on a clean shirt and they're done. Women are more likely to demand hair straighteners and curlers, hair dryers, hairspray and makeup, as well as spend more money on premium personal care products, and that means the costs for personal care are going to be higher. This is only unfair in the sense that society demands that women pay attention to these things and women are the ones who bear the costs involved."
Whatever the reason, the evidence is compelling that women are paying more for many products and services than men.
No doubt, the so-called Pink Tax is unfair, but at this point, there is a challenge to fighting the system that has long been in place. It will take time and a continued push against this practice to bring about reform.
So expect the Pink Tax to stay in play, much to consumer advocates chagrin.