When I go to the hairdresser’s, I rarely walk away with change from £100; when my boyfriend goes, he is done and dusted for £30. I had never wondered about this disparity before but US Marie Claire has turned it into a campaign with a piece claiming that women in the US pay more than men for a huge range of goods and servicesincluding home mortgages, health insurance, and cars and car repairs… “not to mention everyday items like deodorant and disposable razors”.
So is it true in the UK too? First, I contacted hair salons: it might be fair enough to charge a woman with long hair more for a trim than a man with a buzz cut, but what about women with short hair: do they still pay more? Yes, according to Toni & Guy in Islington, north London: women pay £51 to £80 for a cut and blow-dry, regardless of hair length, while men pay £44 to £53.”We allow more time for women’s cuts, even if their hair is short,” receptionist Sarah Osman explains, “and we use more products.”
It’s the same story at Headmasters in Clapham, south London: women’s cuts are priced at £39 to £66, while men pay between £29 and £41.”Women’s cuts just tend to take longer,” says reception manager Nicola Sherry. “Nobody’s ever raised the difference in price as an issue before.”
So what about dry cleaning: will I really pay more to launder a shirt? I will at City Centre Dry Cleaners in central London,where a blouse (who knew anyone still called them that?) costs £4.50 to dry clean, a man’s shirt £3.50, or just £2.50 for a wash and press – an option that isn’t available for a blouse. Men can have two suits and five shirts cleaned for £25. So will this not apply to me, even if I bring in a load of plain, men’s-style shirts? No, manager Raja Iftakhar says bluntly. “The offer is only for men. The curves, stitching and darts in women’s blouses means that they take longer to press.”
Paying over the odds for dry cleaning and haircuts might be annoying, but it’s not exactly a life-or-death issue: what’s even more surprising is that British women pay more for health insurance.Insurer Endsleigh explains: “Statistically, women are more likely to suffer illnesses during their lifetime compared with men. This means they are classed as a higher risk.”
“It’s not something that’s ever occurred to me before,” says Marc Gander of the Consumer Action Group. “But if women are paying more than men for the same service, then we have a serious issue here. Women earn less than men, so if they also have less spending power, it’s a double blow.”
So how does this reflect your own experience: do you feel women pay over the odds for goods and services, or do men often lose out too?