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Pink or Blue? Price Discrimination against Women in the Personal Hygiene Market

November 2014 Pricing

During a recent web search I came across an article about a French women’s group caught my eye. The group, Georgette Sand, is taking a stand against price discrimination directed at female consumers. As a pricing professional, price “segmentation” is something that I am not opposed to. In fact, if a company can pull it off successfully I give them my loudest golf clap. As a female consumer, I still do not find myself outraged by the price differences noted by Georgette Sand, but let me explain…

The Data.

Georgette Sand is compiling a list of items on their blog, womantax.tumblr.com, which women are charged more for than men. Something as simple and basic as a disposable razor costs French women more money than their male counterparts (if the women are purchasing the “female” packages). I wondered if this same price discrimination exists in the U.S. on similar items.

So I took to my local Walgreens to find out. What did I discover? American women are being discriminated against too! A double bladed disposable razor is sold in a 12 pack to men for $2.99 while the same razor, just packaged in pink and purple plastic is sold to women in a 10 pack for $3.99. So women pay about 40 cents per razor while men only pay 25 cents per razor and this translates to women being charged almost 40% more for the same item! I don’t speak for all the women out there but for me personally, a purple handle is not worth a 40% price hike. My advice to women? Instead of being outraged, be smart and buy the blue and yellow “male” version. It will give you the same shave as the pink one, I pinky promise.

Another example was comparing deodorant. Looking this time at CVS I found that for same brand, same most basic option available for each men and women, women are paying 30% more. The “lady” version costs $3.49 for 2.3 oz. of product while men pay the same price but receive 3.25 oz. Of course the lady version is scented like a floral explosion while the men get some kind of woodsy, wilderness scent. A tiny gender based difference yields a significant price difference.

So, What Gives?

Clearly, women do. Women have told the market that they are willing to shell out the extra cash to get their flowery scents and pink packaging. If they weren’t they would purchase unscented male deodorant and blue disposable razors because that would get them more bang for their buck. Perhaps women actually place some sort of monetary value on being perceived as more feminine, and using the products associated with being more feminine. If they didn’t, these companies would not be able to charge women more money for their product’s female versions.

Discriminatory or not, this idea is OK by me, as I am all for capitalism. Not to mention, I have been using men’s deodorant for years because I happen to prefer the smell of the wilderness to that of a lovely lilac. After thinking about this, I decided that if the male deoderant ever happened to cost 30% more than the floral frenzy, I would be inclined to fork over the cash. I place a monetary value on smelling the way I like to smell, and I like smelling like Hawkridge!

In Conclusion…

Georgette Sand has shown me that price discrimination can work even in the age of the internet and the insanely informed consumer. Price segmenting (or discriminating if you want to make it sound evil) is a generally legal business practice. If you are not happy with paying more for something just because it’s labeled for women, don’t. If enough people stop purchasing, perhaps a change will be on the horizon. Until then, keep calm and shop smart.



About the author

Mary DeBoni is a Senior Pricing Analyst at Wiglaf Pricing. Before coming to Wiglaf Pricing, Mary spent her post-graduate-school years working as a data analyst and as an adjunct instructor of Economics and Statistics at Moraine Valley Community College and Richard J. Daley College. Mary is a member of the Professional Pricing Society. She holds a BA in Economics from Michigan State University and an MA in Economics from The University of Detroit Mercy.

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