|Tuesday, November 19, 2002|
NEW YORK — Those who think
gender discrimination is dead haven't been paying attention
when they shop for toiletries, get a haircut or buy clothes
since women are routinely charged more than men.
Richard, executive director of the Institute of Consumer
Financial Education, said women often shell out double what
men pay for dry cleaning, 30 to 40 percent more for cosmetics
and toiletries and 50 to 100 percent more on health
"That really infuriates me," said consumer
Cristina Barden of Long Island, N.Y., who saves by buying in
bulk from Costco. "It's just taking advantage."
An increasing number of products — from
deodorants and razors to oatmeal and health bars — are
marketed to women. Though not all "feminine" merchandise costs
more, it frequently comes with a higher price tag than its
"masculine" counterpart, even though the only difference may
be a powdery scent or pink packaging.
So why are manufacturers and retailers
charging women more?
"Women buy the products, so they get away
with it," said consumer Kristen Bloom of Baltimore.
Richard said cutting coupons can help level
an uneven field. However, he added that women too easily fork
over extra cash for products that are virtually identical to
those for men.
"As long as women remain uninformed and
apathetic and do not vigorously comparison-shop, they will be
more susceptible to paying more," he said.
A spokesman from Procter and Gamble, which
makes Secret — one of the first female deodorants with its
"Strong enough for a man but made for a woman" slogan — said
the company's suggested $3.99 retail price is the same for its
two other deodorants, Old Spice and Sure.
"Secret is priced at the same level,
depending on what line you're using," said spokesman, Brent
Miller. "The retailer ultimately has the final say on what
(price tag) they put on it."
Miller speculated that women buy
female-marketed products because they like them better. "Women
want products specifically made for them," he said. "They look
for a product to serve as a reflection of their own
He admitted the main difference between
deodorants for men versus women is fragrance.
"The ingredients tend to be the same, but
there are some variances, particularly in scent and the way it
interacts with the body, that give it that feminine twist,"
A comparison-pricing trip to a Manhattan
drugstore revealed that razors and shaving gels were priced
the same for both genders. But the deodorant and soap aisles
were another story.
Powdery and floral-scented 2.6-ounce Secret
and Dove solid antiperspirants for women cost $3.27 and $3.39,
respectively. A 2.3-ounce Lady Speed Stick solid costs
Comparatively, 2.8-ounce Gillette and Right
Guard solids — marketed to men — cost $2.99. And Speed Stick
(displayed with the "manly" deodorants) costs $2.29 for 2
ounces and $3.19 for 3.
A package of two Dove "beauty bars" in
petal-pink wrapping costs $2.69 to the $2.25 that three Coast
bars in plain plastic go for.
"There is a lot of disparity," said
Richard, who recently wrote about the male-female pricing
phenomenon on the consumer advocacy Web site, www.financial-education-icfe.org.
Foods like Luna bars and Quaker oatmeal for
women, which claim to have added nutrients ladies need, have
also jumped into the game — but generally without significant
"Foods are usually identical in price,"
Quaker instant oatmeal for women is $3.29
for an eight-pack, versus about $3 for a standard box.
"It's the added expense of the ingredients
that go into it and being able to bring it to market," said
Cathy Kapica, a senior scientist at Quaker Foods and
Beverages. "I don't think there's a conscious effort to get
women to pay more."
Bloom said she's noticed the price
differences but feels helpless about getting around them.
"It will anger me but there's not much you
can do," she said. "I just bitch a lot — and use coupons."
Since the most common form of overspending
is paying too much for individual products, according to
Richard, it's important for women to be smart about their
"In order to get greater value for their
dollar, women have to become a little bit more attuned to
spending issues," he said. "They need to become