Thursday, March 17, 2005

Gender Based Pricing?

A Reuters news service story from Toronto on March 16 reports a pending bill in the Ontario legislature to amend its human rights code by proscribing price discrimination on the basis of gender. The bill, creatively titled “An Act to Prohibit Price Discrimination on the Basis of Gender" – was submitted by a legislator who became upset when he took apparently similar items for dry cleaning and found that his wife had to pay more than he did. The legislator wants to extend similar treatment to such items as haircuts, clothes, shoes, and other services.

First, I wonder what apparently similar items he and his wife are wearing. (Of course, that is none of my business.) I’m not a dry cleaner, but I can imagine that lots of fabrics and clothing styles do justify different costs. Ditto with shoes. My Allen-Edmonds cost a lot more than my wife’s pumps, but then they have a lot more leather and substance to them. How does one make such comparisons and put them into legislation? Moreover, which direction do they want prices to move?

I also consulted the pricing of my barber, Laverne Goss of the Treynor Barber Shop, on this matter. I agree that the $11 I pay for a haircut is less than my wife pays to her hair stylist, and even less than some of my female friends pay at their “salons”. However, I’ve also studied how men react to their visages in the mirror after a haircut – we’re just happy to see someone looking back at us. It’s even better when that person still has some hair covering most of his head. Women, on the other hand, have been known to spend a lot of time fussing on these matters. I see no reason not to charge the fussy customer more.

I figure that if I want to call Laverne a “stylist” or a barber shop a “salon”, I will have to pay up for the privilege. Instead, I would rather just get a good, short haircut from my barber friend while learning some of the local news. I’ll bet my state legislator probably feels the same way, and I’m glad for it.


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