Closeup of smiling blond woman choosing clothes at department store in local supermarket. She's holding a beige blouse and looking at it. The woman is wearing gray cap, red sweater and scarf. Side view.

It’s widely known that women frequently pay more for products and services than men. Referred to as the “pink tax,” women are often charged more than men for everyday products and services such as toiletries, haircuts, dry cleaning and car repairs. Oftentimes, these products or services only have small differences, if any at all. Children’s toys are also subject to higher prices; the “girl” version of certain toys can be more expensive than the “boy” version.

Do women really pay more for goods and services, or do they pay similar prices to men? We looked at research done on the pricing of various goods and services to try and determine if the “pink tax” is real and how we can combat it.

Research

A study by New York City Consumer Affairs found that women’s products cost an average of 7% more than similar products targeted toward men, with women paying more 42% of the time. Categories included men’s and women’s clothing, toiletries, children’s clothing, toys and accessories. Of the 35 product categories, 30 were found to have higher prices for women than men. Some examples include blue jeans, razors and children’s scooters, all of which cost more for women. In the state of California’s study in 1994, it was estimated that women paid an additional $1,351 annually for the same services as men.

Is There Truly a Tax?

Andrea Woroch, a consumer & money-saving expert, says many companies do price women’s products higher than men’s and claim price differences can be attributed to more expensive production requirements or formula variations. In an interview with NBC’s TODAY, Woroch stated, “Brands know women will pay more to look good and feel good.”

In the same NBC video, two hosts visited a dry cleaner with two white collared shirts – one for women and one for men. The dry cleaning bill was $2.50 for the man’s shirt and $5.00 for the woman’s. The Laundromat stated that the man’s shirt was big enough to be pressed by a machine while the woman’s shirt was too small to fit in the machine. This meant an employee had to press it by hand.

In this situation, the higher price for women is justified. While the product was the same, the process to clean it was more extensive for women’s shirts, thus more expensive.

In some cases there can be variances in products and services that warrant different prices. Some women’s products have different scents or formulas for softer skin. It typically takes longer for someone to cut and style women’s hair than it does to trim men’s hair. If it truly does take more time and resources to press a woman’s shirt, then it should be priced accordingly to reflect that.

The NYC study found that prices were equal 40% of the time. 18% of the time, men paid more than women. This indicates that women aren’t always the ones paying more and in fact, men could have their own type of tax. That being said, women did consistently pay more than men, so the pink tax idea is as alive now just as it was decades ago.

What Can We Do About It?

Don’t Buy Products Targeted to Women

The easy answer would be to simply not purchase products marketed toward women that cost more than the gender-neutral or men’s products. Refusing to purchase brands that have biased prices can send a powerful message that you won’t stand for the pink tax. There are plenty of gender-neutral toiletries, clothing, children’s toys and accessories at most stores. Make an effort to seek out and purchase those when you can.

You could also choose the men’s version. I use men’s razors and deodorant because they can be significantly cheaper than women’s, and in my opinion, they work the same. Woroch suggests adding essential oils to unscented products like body lotion or shower gel if you don’t like how men’s products smell, but you still want a fresh scent.

If you prefer women’s versions, choose generic brands, which tend to be cheaper than name brands. Lower the price of women’s products by using coupons. If you’re not a fan of clipping coupons, try e-coupons. Several larger chain stores have coupons you can load onto your rewards card straight from your computer or smartphone. Because most toiletries go on sale, you can save a lot if you stack the sales with coupons.

Compare Products

Compare products you use often, like deodorant or shampoo, to determine if ingredients are the same for women and men’s versions. Even if you’re accustomed to using products targeted toward women, you may want to switch to the unisex or men’s versions if they have the same ingredients.

Reward Stores That Charge the Same Price

There are plenty of stores that charge the same price for the same items. Reward those stores and shop with them instead of the ones that clearly charge different prices to different genders.

Shop Online

Online venues often have both men’s and women’s products on the same page, making price discrepancies easier to detect. Amazon made it easy for me to see if products did, in fact, have a pink tax. There were several price differences in many of the toiletries and children’s toys I looked up, often not in women’s favor.

I did find several products that were identical in price. Degree dry protection deodorant for men was less than the women’s when you purchased one. However, they were the same price when you purchased a 6-pack. Same type of deodorant, same size, same price, and it took all of 30 seconds to determine what was the best value.

Be Mindful

Not every product or service marketed toward women is more expensive, but many are. Being mindful of what you purchase can save you hundreds of dollars per year, as well as send a powerful message to companies that different prices based on gender won’t be tolerated.

This post is part of our Women and Finance Series. Continue to visit the Zing Blog and subscribe to read more of what’s to come!

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