Price gap rages on between men’s, women’s items

Items marketed toward men and women often have a substantial price difference. This is especially true for body care products, such as soap.

By: Catherine Clements | Student Columnist 

Items marketed toward men and women often have a substantial price difference. This is especially true for body care products, such as soap.
Items marketed toward men and women often have a substantial price difference. This is especially true for body care products, such as soap.

Before the start of the spring semester, I decided to stock up on my toiletries. Living on a college student’s budget, naturally I was looking for the best deal.

My discovery? The men’s aisle.

When looking at the price per unit, I was shocked that the men’s razors were significantly cheaper than the women’s. The amount of razors and the number of blades were the same for both versions. The only noticeable differences were the colors and packaging.

Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Julie Menin investigated this price discrepancy this summer to discover that the numbers prove true. There is a gender gap for the cost of women’s versus men’s products.

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs analyzed categories like toys, clothing, personal care items and home goods to find the largest price gap is in hair care products. Items like shampoo, conditioner and gel costs women, on average, 48 percent more. Razor cartridges are the second biggest culprit, costing women 11 percent more.

Menin points out that the cost difference is not just an issue for citizens of New York, but for people all over the country.

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs found that items packaged and sold to girls and women on average cost 7 percent more than comparable products marketed to boys and men.

A simple illustration of the price gap is Target’s listing for its Radio Flyer scooter. In December, two identical scooters were listed at two drastically different prices. The red scooter costing $24.99, while the pink was listed at $49.99.

It’s outrageous that the pink scooter would cost double the price of the red. Girls and women shouldn’t be punished for being drawn to a certain color.

When attention was brought to the variation in price, a Target’s spokesperson called it a “system error,” and lowered the price.

This isn’t the only case of gender discrimination in children’s toys. A Raskullz shark helmet from Target is marked as $14.99 while its counterpart, the Raskullz unicorn helmet, is $24.99. The same goes for the Playmobil pirate ship at $24.99 while the Playmobil fairy queen ship costs $37.99.

There’s nothing special about the female versions other than their price tags.

Target’s spokesperson had little to say, claiming “a difference in price can be related to production costs or other factors.”

Target needs to elaborate on its “production costs or other factors.” The statement masks any insight on the issue. No one, except the corporation, can verify that this discrepancy is in fact due to assembly costs.

The upcharge on products sold to women combined with the wage gap only further disadvantages women economically. Federal data already shows that women earn approximately 79 cents for every dollar paid to men. The last thing women need is a higher cost on goods.

Some may look at this as a “woman’s issue,” but it affects the entire household. If a family is buying girls’ or women’s products, they’re paying the price difference.

As a woman, I certainly find this product price gender gap frustrating. Not only do women make less money, but they’re required to spend more, too? It hardly seems fair.

The reality is businesses set prices based on who will pay. There are cases for both women and men where there’s a price gap. But on average, women tend to see more price inequality.

The State of California found in 1994 that women pay an annual “gender tax” of $1,351, meaning identical services like going to the dry cleaners or hairdresser cost women more than men.

How can businesses validate charging more for women’s services? Take the dry cleaners for example. Charges should be by fabric or piece, not gender. Since 1998, New York City law states that services must be rendered by labor intensity on gender-neutral rates.

Despite this rule, the DCA found 129 violations in New York for gender pricing of services this year, compared to 118 in 2014. And these are only the businesses that were caught.

Only New York, California and Florida’s Miami-Dade County have real laws against service pricing based on gender. More states need establish legislature for this issue.

No state has laws on gender-equal prices on products. This is where legislature may not be realistic.

“Laws insisting upon price equivalence simply don’t work because it’s just not possible to determine exact equivalence,” wrote Tim Worstall, a contributor for Forbes Magazine.

Companies will find a rationale for their higher prices for women’s products. Businesses take advantage of the fact that women are willing to pay more for certain items and market appropriately.

As female consumers, we vote with our purchasing power. The best thing women can do to show they are angry with the price difference is to purchase men’s products.

If consumers can show the market that they don’t need a pink razor, it can allow for prices to go down. Until then, it’s either pay the upcharge or choose the men’s version of an item.

The issue is that women shouldn’t have to choose. But unfortunately right now, that’s the best option.