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Abbot Peter Novecosky, OSB


Abbot Peter Novokosky

The pink tax

It’s the end of April. It’s income tax season. For those who procrastinate, it’s a time of stress.

However, consumers pay federal and provincial taxes throughout the year on all kinds of products. No one likes it, but it’s a necessary fact of life.

And there are taxes that are gender-based. Many consumers are unaware of them. Why does a pink razor or a purple pen cost more than a blue razor or a black pen, for instance? Logic dictates it shouldn’t, but in some cases, it does, especially on personal care items.

Gender-based pricing is known as the “pink tax.” It means women end up paying thousands of dollars more for goods and services than men — from deodorant to cologne to haircuts to dry cleaning. A recent study found that women pay an average of 43 per cent more for toiletries such as razors and shampoo than men do.

Toronto-based ParseHub studied price tags on 3,191 personal care products for women. They found they are substantially higher than the corresponding products for men. ParseHub noted, for instance, that women pay about $47.57 for items similar to those for which men pay $44.84. Men’s products are frequently sold in different sizes than women’s are, and that makes a direct price comparison tricky.

Clothes and vehicles are also subject to a pink tax. One American store charged $12 - $15 more for plus sized women’s jeans than the standard sized ones. But there was no such difference between the prices of men’s plus and regular sized jeans. Dry cleaners are another service where women pay more. Men’s shirts cost an average of $2.86 to be cleaned whereas women’s cost $4.95.

Another study had men and women call various car repair shops and ask the cost of having a radiator replaced. Women who seemed clueless on the phone were quoted $406 for a job that should cost $365. Men who acted similarly uninformed were quoted $383.

A study in December by New York City’s department of consumer affairs examined the prices of 800 products, with clear male and female versions from 90 brands. It found products for women, on average, cost seven per cent more than similar products for men. In addition, across the entire sample, women’s products were priced higher 42 per cent of the time.

One of the most surprising items was a little red scooter that was advertised at $24.99, while a little pink scooter was selling for $49.99. The retailer quickly lowered the price, blaming the discrepancy on what it called a system error.

Christine Whelan, a consumer science professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, says consumers need to raise their awareness and fight for equality. Women should fight the pink tax by voting with their wallets. Buy the men’s version of certain products and do your homework. One women’s rights groups in France started a website and uploaded photos of products that had unequal pricing.

That should make some faces turn from pink to red.