New York City has a strict law against gender-pricing discrimination, but a man and a woman visiting a salon for a quick waxing still are unlikely to be quoted the same prices. The fines for breaking the law range from $50 for first-time violations to $500 for subsequent ones—and salons are not happy.
Of the 138 businesses cited for breaking the law in 2012, 103 were salons or barbershops. Furthermore, the citations keep jumping, from $212 in 2010 to $580 in 2011. The city’s Department of Consumer Affairs claims that it needs to send a strong message, and to do so, it has targeted salons, barbershops, laundries, and dry cleaning businesses.
The companies protest that it is the law that is unfair, not their pricing plans. For example, salon employees assert that manicures for men should cost more, because they require more work than the same service provided for women. Another employee pointed out that it is much harder to wax a man’s back than a woman’s, so men should be charged more for this service. In contrast, for haircuts, the average service takes about 30 minutes for men, but a woman’s cut requires closer to 60 minutes. If they raise the prices of haircuts for men, salons could lose business; if they lower them for women, they could lose money.
The commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs has stated that his office makes an ongoing effort to educate businesses about the law, but many salon employees claim they were never made aware that the law existed. But even with greater awareness, is price parity for men and women really good for business?
- Is the argument for gender discrimination reasonable in this case? Provide arguments for and against the salons’ reasoning.
Sean McClung said:
I believe that the argument for gender discrimination is not valid for a couple of reasons. First, salons should be able to make their own prices for men and women, operating the closest to their business plan and strategy. I am with the salons and barbershops regarding the protest of the law. I do not think there should be a law pertaining to the pricing of their services. “Price discrimination” is thrown around too often these days, due to a struggling economy and high inflation rates. Moreover, the salons should not have to worry about violating any price discrimination laws by charging more for waxing men than women, or charging more for a woman’s hair cut than a man’s. Price parity is not good for business because the salon is not being as profitable as they can be. It is only bad for the business if the salon loses loyal customers.
Vickrum N. said:
In this instance, gender discrimination and pricing should not be so strongly enforced on these salons and barber shops. Nevertheless, explicit strategies should be developed to rationalize and communicate sometimes charging higher prices to men than women, and vice versa. For example, if a hair salon could charge waxing prices based on the volume of hair needed to be waxed, or hair cutting prices based upon the length of time it takes to take a haircut, it could avoid some of the price discrimination allegations. At the same time, it could be an interesting pricing strategy to attract individual’s who believe their hair doesn’t need hours and hours of work on. This salon could easily communicate a value based pricing strategy, and cater to customers looking for a low price yet still a quality hair cut.