ATLANTA -- Check your medicine cabinet, your shopping cart, and your monthly bills. Women, look a little closer and you'll likely see signs of a "Pink Tax". It's the name critics give to higher-priced products marketed to women.
Gendered pricing has been outlawed in one U.S. state, and now, there's a call for an investigation in Europe. We're digging into the Pink Tax, how it works, and if laws against it actually work.
We visited local stores in Atlanta and found examples of the Pink Tax when comparing similar items at every store:
Target's generic razors: both packages contained 5 razors. The women's razors had 5 blades and pink contoured handles. The men's 5-pack razors have three blades and blue hard plastic handles. It's $10.99 vs. $4.99.
CVS Gillettte shaving cream: Gillette's sensitive shaving cream for men costs $3.79. A comparable size for women of Olay (owned by Gillette), costs $3.99.
Target Degree deodorant: The women's version cost $7.79 for a two-pack of 2.6 oz. The men's version was $3.99 for a two-pack of 2.7 oz.
Publix Neutrogena face wash: $5.99 for a 5.1 ounce compared to $7.69 for 4.7 ounce.
When the manufacturers were reached for comment, they pointed to the differences in the similar products (packaging, material, ingredients) as the reason for the difference in cost.
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When California lawmakers started investigating gender pricing in 1995, they found women pay $1,351 per year in extra costs and fees.
Dr. Christopher Lemley, marketing professor at Georgia State University, says there are three reasons women pay more for similar products:
They're willing to do it. "From a behavioral aspect, women have been willing to pay more for a longer period of time for some goods. Is that a good thing? I'm not sure," Lemley said. "It is the job of retailers and manufacturers to try and get as much money as they can of everything they sell. And if a category of people is willing to pay more for certain items, then we'll see how we can push it."
They enjoy shopping. Retailers know women enjoy the shopping experience. They'll spend more time comparing products and being lured by packaging and presentation.
They return more often. "Women return a significant amount more goods than men do after their initial purchase. Well, the stores have to make up for that somehow, somewhere or another," Lemley said.
California banned gender discrimination in pricing in 1996. The bill does allow merchants to charge a higher price for services that require more time and cost to deliver. Under California's law, consumers can sue against gender pricing in civil court.
DOCUMENT |Read the California law
France's finance ministry agreed to investigate gendered pricing after a petition gained more than 30,000 signatures.
Lemley said the problem comes in enforcement. "To me it would be a waste of tax payer money. It's good the issue is being raise, so let's not diminish that it's being raised," he said. "But it would be really difficult to prove. You would have to look at the products, you would have to look at the services that were delivered, see if there's any differentiation in them whatsoever that would justify the price increase. Would the government do it?"
Instead, he says, buyers just need to be smarter. "Maybe this will spark a level of conversation, or spark a level of awareness that would warn buyers out there that there are some items out there that they have the choice not to purchase because they are priced differently and they're in essence the same thing. And a smarter buyer is one of the best things we can hope for out of this."