If you are shopping for a personal care product, the price you pay at the checkout could vary depending on whether you’re a man or a woman.
So-called “gender pricing” sees women pay more than men for similar products and services.
There are no laws against gender pricing in Canada, but New York City prohibits it and California outlawed the practice in 1996 after it was discovered it cost women an extra $1,351 annually.
In fact, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs conducted a first-ever study on gender pricing of goods in New York City. It looked at close to 800 products with clear male and female versions for more than 90 brands. On average, the agency discovered women’s products cost 7 per cent more than similar products for men.
“Some products are getting better,” said Dr. Kate White, a professor at UBC’s Sauder School of Business. “I was noticing the razors are actually more comparable than they have been in the past, but there are other products that are being sneakier about it.
“There’s different ways to do this so they can be the same price, but actually if you look at the female product there’s less quantity.”
So why does the practice continue? White says, “consumers are often overwhelmed and busy and in a rush so we don’t always look at the packaging and the ingredients.”
Hair salons and other services can also be guilty of gender pricing.
A salon in Edmonton says starting next month it will base prices on the length of time it takes to cut someone’s hair rather than gender.
“It just makes sense in 2016,” said Rebecca Wollenberg, co-owner of Edmonton’s Adara Hair. “It’s a progressive time in our culture. It’s something that we felt inspired to do.”
So what can the consumer do about gender pricing?
Consumer Reports advises shoppers to ignore labels and just buy the cheaper version, regardless of the packaging that deodorant or shaving lotion comes in.