Are You Paying for the Pink Tax? An Experiment in Shopping

Are you paying the "pink tax?"

It's the increased amount of money women spend versus men for similar products, and it could be inflating your budget.

In California, it's illegal to charge more for services based on someone's gender, unless the service takes more time, is more difficult or it costs more to provide.

However, when it comes to products, manufacturers can charge whatever they want -- even if it means women pay more.

Just how much more?

The aisles of most stores are broken down in sections, with some products catering to men, others to women, but experts say it's women who are paying more on everything from shampoo to razors.

Woman may spend as much as $1,400 more per year, according to one state study provided by Congresswoman Jackie Speier's office.

NBC4's I-Team decided to conduct an experiment.

They sent two interns, Tyrah Majors and Trevor Sochocki, to buy some products.

First, they both stopped at the drugstore deodorant aisle.

"This Dove men's deodorant is $6.19," Sochocki said.

"I'm purchasing the Dove Advanced Care for women, and it costs $6.99," Majors said.

Both deodorants offer 48-hour protection and "advanced care." They even have the same amount of the active ingredient.

But the women's version costs 80 cents more than the men's. And the I-Team found there's slightly less of it in the women's container.

In a statement to the I-Team, Unilever said: "We do not price our products based on gender. We provide a suggested price to our retailers" and "prices vary...based on a variety of factors including different technologies, formulations, and promotions..."

Next, the I-Team interns hit the vitamin aisle.

Sochocki bought adult gummy multi-vitamins for him that cost $17.99.

Majors bought Nature Made Multi for Her, which cost $19.49.

Both bottles have 80 gummies, and have "omega-3's added."

The list of ingredients is also similar, though the percentages are slightly different.

But the women's vitamins cost $1.50 more than the men's.

The I-Team repeatedly reached out to Nature Made, but never heard back.

For the final selection, the I-Team went to the dry cleaners.

Majors provided a women's white button-down long sleeve dress shirt, which cost $6.25 - a full dollar more than her male counterpart spent to dry clean his plain white button-down.

California Congresswoman Jackie Speier says it's time to end the "pink tax."

She plans to re-introduce legislation she says would stop gender-based discrimination when it comes to pricing products.

"I think the pink wave that overtook congress in the 2018 elections speaks volumes about how women are stepping up and speaking out," she said. "This is a retail issue, this is a pocketbook issue -- this is an important issue."

As for our I-team experiment, at the end of the day, Sochocki spent $29.43.

Majors spent $32.73. That means she spent $3.30 more than he did for similar products.

Congresswoman Speier says that's just wrong.

"We're not going to tolerate it anymore," she said.

CVS, the drugstore where NBC4 bought the deodorant and vitamins, responded with a statement.

CVS says it "makes every effort to ensure the products we sell are priced competitively in the marketplace. Retail prices for products are based in part on the supplier's costs."

Until there are laws in place that prevent the "pink tax" permanently, what can you do? Experts say to buy some men's products to save money. They're just as good and many times they're exactly the same.

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