“Pink Tax” Adds Up to a Rip-Off for Women Shoppers

How “Pink Tax” tactics charge women more for same items as men: Internet Scambusters #825

“Pink Tax” is a well-mannered way of describing a rip-off that targets half of the consumer population.

It results in women paying significantly more for certain products and services than men pay for more or less identical items.

In this week’s issue, we’ll explain how this piece of discrimination works and the ongoing campaign to put a stop to the trickery.

Let’s get started…


“Pink Tax” Adds Up to a Rip-Off for Women Shoppers


You may already have suspected this as you walk around the aisles at your local drugstore, and it’s true: you could be paying a disguised, so-called “Pink Tax.”

Pink Tax? Yes, it’s the term consumer groups use to describe how shoppers can end up paying significantly more for products targeted at female consumers, compared with virtually the same items in the men’s department.

Often, the only difference between the male and female version of, say, a shower gel or shampoo, is the color of the product or the packaging.

Recalling a New York study from 2015, Consumer Reports magazine recently noted that goods targeting female shoppers cost up to 7% more than the male version in 42% of cases. Some products, such as shampoo, cost 13% more.

This echoes the findings of a study by the state of California that claimed Pink Tax on personal care services, like haircuts, cost women $2,280 more than men (in 2018 prices) in a single year.

And an earlier study by Consumer Reports found charges for similar drugstore products cost as much as 50% more for the women’s version.

Other research discovered dry cleaning stores charging an average of 80% more for cleaning a woman’s shirt versus the cost for a man’s shirt, and car repair shops quoting higher prices to women callers than men for exactly the same job.

The New York study found girls’ clothes were on average 4% more than boys’ for the same or similar items.

And one big clothing retailer was challenged by consumer authorities for upping the price of plus-sized women’s items, but not doing the same for men’s plus-sizes.

Furthermore, in some states, feminine hygiene items attract sales tax because they’re considered “luxury items.”

What the Stores Say

Manufacturers and retailers come up with a whole stack of excuses (or explanations as they may prefer to call them) for the differences.

For example, the store involved with charging more for women’s plus sizes said: “They are created by a team of designers who are experts in creating the most flattering and on-trend plus styles, which includes curve-enhancing and curve-flattering elements such as four-way stretch materials and contoured waistbands, which most men’s garments do not include.”

Retailers often pass the buck to manufacturers where, they say, the higher charges begin. And manufacturers claim there are actually subtle (and costlier) differences in female versions of their products.

They also say they have to charge more because they carry a lower inventory of the women’s versions, so it’s all down to what retailers call “individual unit cost.”

What You Can Do

Several legislatures have tried to act to stop these excesses. California has a law that imposes fines for businesses that overcharge women, but it seems not to be enforced to any significant extent.

New York City has a similar law. And a couple of attempts have been made in Congress, including one this year, which is ongoing, to introduce a Pink Tax Repeal Act.

In the meanwhile, here are five things you can do to register your protests at Pink Tax charges:

  1. Consumer Reports suggests we should all contact our congressional representatives asking them to support the current Repeal Act legislation.
  2. When you’re shopping, you consider buying a male product version when you’ve checked that there are no significant differences.
  3. Shop around to discover which stores are imposing the highest Pink Tax and take your business elsewhere. You can find an interesting investigation that Forbes Magazine carried out a couple of years ago to try to identify which stores levied the highest Pink Taxes here: Which Retailers Charge the Largest ‘Pink Tax’?
  4. Know your rights. In states where legislation is in force, be prepared to complain to state consumer protection departments.
  5. Play your part in the ongoing campaign to eliminate this unfairness by commenting on your experiences on social media.

There’s also a website devoted specifically to the issue, called, not surprisingly, pink.tax (the “.tax” bit is a replacement for the traditional “.com”).

Trade lawyer Michael Cone launched the site after discovering that even some clothing and toy import tariffs were gender-based — for example, shirts with left-hand buttons were taxed higher than those with buttons on the right.

He has campaigned tirelessly on the Pink Tax issue for more than 20 years and says resignedly: “Gender identity and equality have broadly emerged as preeminent social issues of the 21st century. Tremendous progress has already been made, and I will continue to fight the Pink Tax from my home base in New York City until one of us is dead.”

Alert of the Week

Scammers posing as U.S. postal workers claim they have a letter with a $25,000 check to deliver to your home, but first they need you to pay a delivery fee of $200, which they claim is refundable.

The giveaway, as usual, is that you’re asked to buy gift cards to pay that $200 and then phone the fake mail man with the card numbers — always the sign of a scam.

Plus, consider this: How would the mailman know there’s a check inside a mail piece for you? And why would he ask you to pay to deliver it, since the USPS doesn’t work that way?

That’s it for today — we hope you enjoy your week!