Part Two: hidden tax on women’s services

Author: Lindsey Sablan
Published: Updated:
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FORT MYERS, Fla. – A follow-up to a Call for Action investigation found “pink” tax exists on more than just store shelves, it also exists in at least one popular service.

WINK News went undercover to test dry cleaners at various locations across Southwest Florida. We purchased a man’s small blue, button-up shirt made out of 100-percent cotton and an double extra-large woman’s blue, button-up shirt also made out of 100-percent cotton. The man dropped off his shirt at seven different dry cleaning locations, and the woman dropped off her shirt at the same locations. Of the seven dry cleaners our investigators went to, four of the locations charged the woman more, ranging in a price difference from $2.06 to $4.49.

We called all seven locations after, and we found they all charge a different price for a woman’s shirt verse a man’s shirt. We are not sure why three of the locations charged us the men’s price. But the four locations that charged the woman more listed her shirt as a ‘blouse,’ the other three listed it as a ‘shirt.’ Which is how it is categorized for men.

All seven locations said they charge women more because the process to clean the shirt is different. They explained a man’s shirt can be pressed in a machine that is the size of man’s torso. However, they said a woman’s shirt is smaller, so it must be hand pressed. Keep in mind, at three locations our woman’s shirt went through the machine press. Certain cleaners told us if a customer asked to have her shirt pressed in the man’s machine, they would allow it, as long as it fit.

Attorney Michael Cone with FischerBroyles, LLP said dry cleaning is not the only service that charges one gender more than the other.

During a Skype interview with Call for Action reporter Lindsey Sablan, he said, “I see you have long hair Lindsey. And if you said I want the man’s rate for a haircut, they might tell you no. Luckily, in certain places that’s illegal. It’s illegal in California, it’s illegal in New York City, but it’s going to take individual grassroots awareness and push back and also government involvement to cure it.”

Pat Ambrose said she has experienced “pink” tax or gender based pricing firsthand.

“We [her and her husband] went to the same salon, same girl cut the hair. She charged me $25 and charged him $10.”

When Ambrose asked about the price difference, she said she was told, “Females haircuts are more than males haircuts. I looked at her and said you know what I’ve got no more hair than he’s got, so why’s mine more?”

Miami-Dade county has banned gender-based pricing. The ordinance states it, “prohibits businesses from charging different prices for goods or services based solely on the customer’s gender. However, a business is permitted to charge a different price if the goods or services involve more time, difficulty or cost. In other words, consideration must be given to the quality and complexity of the goods or services to determine whether or not you have been discriminated against.”

Customers can file a complaint against the business, and if they prove discrimination they are entitled to compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and courts costs from the business. Miami-Dade county also has a dry cleaning and laundering ordinance, which requires dry cleaners to post their prices where customers can see them. It is illegal for the cleaner to charge a price that is more than the price on the sign. If they fail to post the price or they charge more than the posted price, a cleaner may be fined $200.

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