It often costs more to be a woman than it does to be a man. Razors for men usually cost less than those lovely pink razors for women. The same goes for soaps, deodorants, and a host of other products and services. But some retailers are fighting the so-called pink tax — one with a man tax.
According to the “first-ever study of the gender pricing of goods in New York City across multiple industries,” conducted in 2015 by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), women’s products cost an average of 7% more than similar products for men. Looking at “nearly 800 products with clear male and female versions from more than 90 brands sold at two dozen New York City retailers, both online and in stores,” the study found that prices for products made for and marketed to woman were higher than their male-oriented counterparts 42% of the time. By contrast, men’s products were costlier just 18% of the time.
The man tax
Well, one New York City pharmacy is doing something about that. Owner Jolie Alony has instituted a “man tax” on male customers. On October 10, two new signs went up announcing the new store policies:
ALL FEMALE CUSTOMERS SHOP TAX FREE
ALL MALE CUSTOMERS ARE SUBJECT TO A 7% MAN TAX
Alony’s goal is “to raise awareness of gender pricing discrimination” in such a way that “men actually get to feel it.” Women make less due to the pay gap, she noted. And, as the DCA study revealed, they typically pay a “pink tax” on all sorts of products, from “from cradle to cane.”
In reality, Alony’s store is not charging men an extra 7%. Instead, it exempts women from having to pay a portion of the sales tax (she chose 7% because of the fact that women’s products typically cost 7% more then men’s). New York law permits retailers to absorb sales tax rather than passing it on to customers, but the store isn’t robbing the city and state of their tax revenue — Alony’s remitting the full amount of tax owed and paying the difference out-of-pocket.
She’s not sure how long she’ll continue with the new policy, understanding as she does that it’s against New York City pricing laws to charge gender-based fees. Reactions to her new policy have been mixed, though most men and women have been amused, she says.
The next new trend in taxation?
Alony’s SoHo pharmacy Thompson Chemists isn’t the only store to combat this pricing trend. Boxed.com, an online startup, announced last week that it’s “taking a stand” against the pink tax. It’s lowering its prices on feminine hygiene products to offset the sales tax many states impose on them, and it’s selling male and female products (like razors and deodorant) for the same price. According to CEO and co-founder Chieh Huang, “We are taking a firm position in an effort to correct these gender pricing wrongs even if we take a hit on margin because we hope that this small change will be the catalyst to a great win in equality.”
Sales tax: it’s never dull.