Have you ever noticed that products cost more in some colors or patterns than others? Well, it turns out that a lot of people have noticed, and the higher price is associated with one color in particular: pink!
The phenomenon is called the “pink tax”, and it could be costing you big time.
The so-called pink tax received national prominence in 2012 when comedian Ellen Degeneres parodied Bic’s pink pens “for her” with a hilarious video, but the impact is no laughing matter. According to a 1994 California study, “women effectively paid an annual ‘gender tax’ of approximately $1,351 for the same services as men.” And that number is per year.
The pink tax is the popular name for the practice of charging more for products that are specifically branded for women, usually by using the color pink. Other popular motifs include purple, pastels, lace, pearl, rose gold (like the new iPhone!), butterflies, and flowers. Items and services that women pay more for range from razors, shampoo, and clothing to dry cleaning, toys, and car repairs.
At its heart, the pink tax does two things: 1) boils down the variety of tastes and preferences of all women to a very narrow visual aesthetic and 2) charges more for that aesthetic with no clear advantage in the way the product actually works.
In fact, sometimes the product marketed toward women is smaller, leading to the saying “shrink it and pink it.”
Advocates of the tax claim women have higher standards and different tastes, calling for more colors of a similar item or more complex manufacturing, both of which cost the company more to produce. The New York City Department for Consumer Affairs backs this up, saying that in some instances, women’s products may truly cost more to create and sell.
The logic behind charging more for pink products is that the pink model is a modification of the original, and as such, the increased cost is passed on to the consumer. However, this literally frames the model aimed at men as the default, so products aimed at women are considered a deviation, rather than assuming products should be geared at everyone from the beginning. Why is it that men’s products are “the norm” while women’s products are not?
And in cases like car repairs or taxes on imported clothing, there is no discernible logic for why women customers pay more.
So, what can you do about it? One option is to buy the male or unisex version of products. Other consumers have taken to social media to call out retailers and manufacturers. Whatever you do, make sure you’re checking prices, so you can make an informed decision. Don’t let the pink tax cost you!
By Delia Harrington