A scooter is for sale at Radio Flyer, and there’s a red one for boys and a pink one for girls. They feature the exactly same plastic handlebars, three wheels and a foot brake, and they both weigh about five pounds.
So, what’s the difference? The only difference (except the colour, of course) is the price. The boys’ red scooter is for sale at $24.99, while the girls’ pink scooter is for sale at $49.99!
According to the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, this difference in price of the scooters isn’t an anomaly. They compared 800 nearly identical products with male and female versions, and as the case with the scooters above, they were practically identical except for the gender-specific packaging. What they found out was that the prices were persistently higher for one of the sexes. Items marketed especially for girls were 7% more expensive than similar products aimed at boys and men on average.
The investigation was launched by DCA Commissioner Julie Menin, and she said that the numbers show an insidious form of gender discrimination. Compounding the injustice is the wage gap, as federal data shows that women earn about 79 cents for every dollar paid to men in the US.
Menin described it as a “double whammy”, and it’s an issue that takes place everywhere across the country.
After the report about the scooter was released, a Target spokesman said that they lowered the price of the pink scooter, and he called the discrepancy a “system error”.
The spokesman was asked about the price differences in many other gendered toys, like the Raskullz shark helmet costing $14.99 and the Raskullz unicorn helmet costing $27.99, or the Playmobil pirate ship $24.99 and the Playmobil fairy queen ship $37.00. He declined to elaborate, and pointed to a company statement:
“Our competitive shop process ensures that we are competitively priced in local markets. A difference in price can be related to production costs or other factors.”
According to the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, who were studying toys, children’s clothing, adult apparel, personal care products and home goods sold in the stores, the largest price difference was in the hair care category. On average, women paid 48% more for goods like shampoo and conditioner, while razor cartridges cost female shoppers 11% more than their male counterparts.
Women’s products had higher price tags 42% of the time, while men’s products cost more 18% of the time.
Price discrimination tends to be worse for women, as the 1994 report for the State of California shows. Women pay an annual “gender tax” of $1,351 for the same services as opposed to men.
Insurance companies in Europe used to charge women more because they lived more, until it was knocked down by the courts. Insurance companies in the US cannot factor gender into the cost.
Gender discrimination in the pricing of the services has been banned in New York City since 1998, meaning that businesses cannot legally charge more for things like haircuts or dry cleaning, for example, based on the customer’s gender.
Yet, the local companies don’t always follow these rules. 129 violations of gender pricing of services has been issued this year so far.
Selling the same services to men and women at different prices is also prohibited in the states of California and Florida, but there is no federal law that requires the business to set gender-equal prices on products.
The worst gender pricing difference of the 24 retailers in the New York City report surfaced at Club Monaco, where the women’s clothing cost 29% more on average than men’s clothing. It was followed by Urban Outfitters with 24.6% and Levis with 24.3%.
None of the retailers responded to the Post’s request for comment.