SoHo pharmacy Thompson Chemists has instituted a 7 percent "man tax" for male customers in an effort to raise awareness of gender pricing discrimination.
On Monday, two signs went up in the store's front windows announcing the new policy. A pink sign in one window reads, "New store policy: All Female Customers Shop Tax Free," while a blue sign in the other window, reads "All Male Customers Are Subject To A 7% Man Tax."
Jolie Alony, who has owned the pharmacy for 22 years and lives in SoHo, said she wants men who shop at her store to understand the extra costs that women bear when they shop.
"We want to bring awareness on how it feels to be a woman, so the men actually get to feel it," she said.
Last year, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs released a study on gender pricing that found that products marketed to women in New York cost on average 7 percent more than equivalent products marketed to men. That effective mark-up covers everything from pink scooters and razors to shampoos and deodorants to canes and adult diapers.
The disparity is often referred to as the "pink tax."
In my research, I discovered that in Austria, there's something called Woman's Day, in which stores give big discounts to female shoppers. My German is limited, so I'm unclear as to whether this is supposed to be a progressive or regressive policy. (Also, this site, at least according to Google Translate, claims that men also get the good discounts—very confusing.)
Despite what her signs say, Alony explained, men aren't actually coughing up more than they normally would at the register; rather, she's offering a 7 percent discount for women—effectively cutting out sales tax. She's still required to report all sales and pay out the sales tax in full, so, she said, she's just making up the difference herself.
The policy is being run as a promotion—Alony said she'll see how the day goes and decide if she wants to keep it in place.
Online bulk retailer Boxed announced a similar promotion last week.
Thus far, Alony's policy hasn't raised hackles. "So far, the women are very, very happy," she said. "Men haven't complained yet, they've just laughed."
Update: After this story was published, NYC Department of Consumer Affairs wrote back to Gothamist to explain that there's no legal issue with the Thompson Chemist promotion, as there isn't a prohibition on price discrimination for goods. It is illegal, however, to discriminate in the pricing of services.