The Pink Tax?

I saw an ad on TV that was so odd I had to turn the sound on the next time it appeared, to hear what they were talking about (I usually mute the sound and turn my head away whenever a commercial comes on TV). I am still confused over this ad, because it appears to be sponsored by a for-profit company (a place doing feminine waxing) but it isn’t directly about their business. Instead it seems to be an issue-ad about something they call the “Pink Tax”. The complaint seems to be that many consumer products that are specifically marketed to women cost more than similar products targeting men, or that are generic. This includes things like deodorant and razors, or other things that may be even more gender specific, like clothing. The claim is that it is fundamentally unfair to charge different prices for things just because of the gender specificity on the label.

Uhh… really?!?!

First-of-all, in a free-market economy any vendor has the right to set whatever price they want on their product, and the consumer can buy it – or not – as they choose. There is no coercion here. Dictating legal limits to product pricing is the essence of communism and anathema in a free society.

That aside, this claim about the “Pink Tax” doesn’t make me think; “Oh, the poor pitiful women”; rather it makes me think; “What dumbasses”. If you want to pay more for a product because of its “image”, go ahead. I do it all the time when I pick a name-brand over a generic in the grocery store, and that is the function of “Marketing”. I think that a good example of this is cars. There is no good functional reason why a BMW should cost at least twice what a Chevy does – it is mostly just the marketing that makes one appear more desirable and valuable than the other. If you want the “image” that BMW marketing projects, you pony-up the cash for it, and if you don’t, you don’t – but the price difference has very little to do with function. You (and I) are simply being manipulated by Marketing. The same is true with Pink Products. If it is important to you to have the pink box and the “pretty” fragrance and the flowers-and-lace and the image that this product’s marketing projects – go for it. If that marketing-BS is not important to you, then you just look at the price-tag and buy whatever is cheapest. The assertion that Blue Products are consistently less expensive than Pink Products simply suggests (empirically) that women tend to be less price-sensitive and more gender-obsessed than men are.

The TV ad that I saw about this was quite vague and it didn’t seem to be advocating a remedy for the perceived injustice of the “Pink Tax”. The only point of the commercial seemed to be to raise-awareness, and in this their own “marketing” was quite successful because I am now aware of something that I wasn’t before. A response to this situation was left open, however.

If the point of this effort is to call for a boycott of “Pink Products” with a “Buy Blue” campaign, then I would call this legitimate and I would support it. The most devastating answer to any marketing program is to ignore it and if sales of more expensive Pink Products started to plummet, things would change quickly. If a “Boycott Pink” movement got traction, then the results would probably be seen within a few months because advertising companies and marketing managers are extremely sensitive to public perception and image (that’s their business, after all).

If, on the other hand, there is a notion that there should be a legal remedy – such as making it illegal to charge different prices for similar products based on a marketing difference (be it gender-target or anything else), then this is absolutely wrong and cannot be tolerated in a free-market, democratic society.

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In Mark’s Defense

In the news is Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress yesterday. I really don’t get all the hoo-ha. From the way people are reacting, you’d think that this was a case of the phone-company recording conversations or Fed-Ex opening packages. The thing is – it’s nothing at all like that. First-of-all, it doesn’t seem like Facebook itself ever did anything “wrong”. The only real complaint seems to be that they were not monitoring their corporate-customers as closely as people (now!) think they should be.

The other thing that nobody seems to Get is that, unlike a phone-company, or package-delivery-company, or a bank, the paying-customers of Facebook to whom they have a fiduciary duty are not the general public. A better analogy might be a TV-network. The “service” here is something that people want and use, and it is provided for “free”, but it is ultimately paid-for by advertisers and companies who want to buy what they perceive as valuable marketing information. Getting mad at Facebook is like getting mad at a TV-network because the Neilson company is doing market-research on people’s TV viewing habits so that they can target specific products to specific shows (and this is why there seem to be so few feminine-hygiene commercials during football games).

Oh come-‘on, people – grow up. Facebook is not delivering a service for your benefit, they are from beginning-to-end a Marketing Company. Furthermore, Facebook has absolutely zero data about anyone that those people have not willingly (if blindly) provided themselves. If you don’t want to be marketed-to by TV-commercials (including political ads) or by Facebook’s corporate-customers – then just don’t use it. The service may be “nice” and it may be “convenient”, but you don’t need Facebook to live any more than you need TV to live. I don’t use Facebook and I don’t miss it by one jot. I do watch TV – but I mute-the-sound and turn my head away every time a commercial comes on. Because of this habit I am proud to say that I have not seen a single political ad on TV for at least the last 10-years, and all those fools spending millions on political TV-ads are just wasting their money. If you don’t want to be “Influenced” by this kind of marketing, then don’t be.

The Latest Black-Mirror-Moment

In the news there has been yet-another mass-shooting, this time at You-Tube headquarters – and by a woman too. How “Black Mirror”. The story is that she was upset by the You-Tube policy of “demonetizing” content that they determine is objectionable or of poor quality. In other words, they are no longer paying people for total-crap.  The story is that this is a wide-spread complaint by Y-T users, but of course the company started doing this in the first place because of a very public outcry over advertisements being placed on things that were truly objectionable – thereby tainting the brands that were being advertised. Major advertisers were starting to pull their money out of You-Tube because of this.

Anyone who craves celebrity and public notice must necessarily have an enormous ego. This includes not just movie-stars, but high-level athletes and musicians and celebrity-chiefs. In The-Old-Days there were innumerable “gateways” to pass through before achieving widespread public exposure. These gateways – not perfectly, but to a large extent – helped to insure quality. No production platform would risk either money or reputation to promote someone who’s output was garbage. The whole point of today’s Brave New World of online platforms is; A) it’s cheap and easy; B) anyone can self-produce and self-publish. This means that most of the traditional gateways have been eliminated. Nowadays, anyone with even a modest ego can dream of being world-famous and making a zillion-dollars just by Being-Themselves in front of a cell-phone camera and exposing themselves to the world. In their childish little fantasy, we are all supposed to care about them and their absurdly egocentric world.

The problem is that 98% of the human-race are jackasses and idiots and when they Do-Their-Thing, it is pure crap. This appeals to so many people because – well – they are jackasses and idiots too. The crap-producers don’t like You-Tube acting as a gateway to advertising and income, but what is the alternative? From the advertiser’s perspective, the ideal would be for them to directly select which content they sponsor – but then You-Tube would be no different from commercial TV. The people who are complaining just don’t understand basic economics. You can’t expect anyone to pay for something that they don’t want. In this case it may not be the end-viewer who is paying, but it is the sponsoring company, and if you upset them, then there will be no money at all, and the whole thing comes crashing down. Some may argue that posting “Whatever” on You-Tube is a Constitutionally guaranteed expression of Free-Speech, but making money from it is not guaranteed by the Constitution or anyone else. Grow up.