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$15 box of tampons raises questions on gender bias in pricing

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WATCH: Consumers are being urged to vote with their wallets to change the so-called "pink tax" and some retailers and manufacturers are changing their pricing as a result of consumer feedback. Tony Tighe reports on a Calgary incident that sparked the discussion – Dec 5, 2017

A recent case of price gouging at YYC Calgary International Airport has highlighted the issue of gender-biased pricing.

Retail experts say it’s up to consumers to force retailers and manufacturers to change — and some establishments are listening.

Moe Masri opened his barber shop in Mayland Heights in Calgary this past June and has some loyal customers.

READ MORE: $15 tampons at Calgary airport trigger larger debate about needs versus wants

He believes one of the reasons people keep coming back is that he doesn’t have different prices for men and women.

“Actually I get a lot of senior ladies that come here to cut their hair because I charge them the same price as the mens [cuts]. It takes me the same time,” Masri said.
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Gender pricing, or the “pink tax,” is well documented, especially for personal care products and some clothing.

“I have, in the past bought men’s products just because it’s cheaper, like razors for example,” said shopper Lori Bossert.

“I’ve noticed it mostly for my daughter,” Kyla Mumby said. “I will shop frequently in the little boys section for her because it’s less expensive.”

Retail experts say publicity around the pricing issue is the only way to change the practice.

It took a viral photo of a $15 box of tampons left in a washroom at the Calgary airport on the weekend to force the retailer to drop the price by half.

READ MORE: Montreal woman hopes to legally challenge alleged gender discrimination in product pricing

The woman who took the picture is pleased it has reopened the conversation.

“I think it’s a topic that not a lot of people are aware of,” Carlee Field said. “There’s been a lot of that conversation which has been really cool.”

According to one expert, who developed a university course on retail pricing and marketing at the University of Calgary, publicity and changing attitudes are forcing companies to listen.

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“Manufacturers are being a little bit more cautious in terms of what product categories that they are charging the differences,” adjunct professor Debi Andrus with the Haskayne School of Business said.

“Women purchase the majority of consumer products. Women are the shoppers of the household.”

READ MORE: Gender price gouging: why women often pay more than men and what can be done about it

Andrus said unfortunately, many consumers aren’t aware of the price differences or are too busy to comparison shop. She said there may never be an end to gender pricing because of inherent stereotyping, but consumers can make a difference.

“If a company does not listen to its consumers, they will pay a price. Anytime that anyone is purchasing something you get to vote at a cash register,” Andrus said.

“We do have power to say, ‘No we won’t accept this’ or, We won’t buy it.’”

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