Given the huge strides that have been made to rid society of sexism, it’s horrifying to know that many Canadian retailers and corporations still prey on women using gender based pricing. The story first broke when CBC’s Marketplace tested gender pricing at three of Canada’s largest retailers — Wal-Mart, Hudson’s Bay and Target — and discovered that similar products for men and women weren’t always priced the same.
The Marketplace investigation, “Price Wars: Battle of the Sexes”, aired November 21, 2014 at 8 p.m. on CBC Television, and online at www.cbc.ca/marketplace. It documented that in some cases women got much less product than men did. In other cases, they paid more than twice what men did for comparable products from the same manufacturer. One example was a men’s anti-wrinkle cream that cost $8.99. The cost of the women’s version from the very same company? It was $22.99!
But, gender based pricing is not just perpetrated on adults, it also victimizes children. Marketplace found significant differences in some children’s products, with items for girls priced higher than similar ones for boys. In written statements, Wal-Mart, Target and Hudson’s Bay claimed that the price gaps reflect the differences in packaging, manufacturing costs or ingredients, and were not gender based pricing.
But, personal finance author and coach, Katie Dunsworth-Reiach, told Marketplace co-host Erica Johnson that the practice of gender based pricing needs to end. Dunsworth-Reiach asked, “What message is that sending to little girls? That because you like princesses, you have to pay more?”
So, why does the government of Canada, a nation once known for its innovative and progressive stance on social issues, continue to allow gender based pricing? That is a very good question, given that according to Bill 182 2005: An Act to prohibit price discrimination on the basis of gender, it is illegal to charge one gender more for things than another. Section one states: 1. In this Act, “gender-based pricing” means the practice of charging a different price for the same goods or services on the basis of gender. And section two is the prohibition against gender pricing: 2. (1) No person shall engage in gender-based pricing.
But gender based pricing not only continues to exist, it’s actually increased in some areas, and ‘racial based pricing’ has been added to the equation of inequality. In 2016, data-scraping company ParseHub said that it had analyzed the prices of 3,191 personal care products. It found that women pay 43% more for their hygiene products when compared to prices for items marketed to men.
ParseHub then revisited their study in February 2021, and found that not only has the pink tax persisted, but its total average cost for women has gotten larger. They compiled prices from thousands of products and reported the gap in prices to be more than 50 per cent. They do not specify the exact percentage.
ParseHub looked at products from companies like Walmart and Shoppers Drug Mart. By their count, 100 grams of deodorant marketed to women cost on average $9.75 in 2021. But 100 grams of deodorant marketed to men cost $6.45. That’s a 34% difference for 2021 deodorant. They also found that razors marketed to women cost 4.99% more and body wash cost 65.71% more.
Gender based pricing is blatant sexism, and racial based pricing is blatant racism, making both horribly wrong on so many levels, and it’s a predatory consumer practice that needs to come to end.