For half the population, checking out at a store or online is an afterthought — add items to your cart, input your address and credit card number, click to confirm. But, for another half of the population, it’s more than just a point of sale; it’s actually a point of discrimination.
In 36 states, feminine hygiene products are taxed anywhere from 4 to 10 percent because they are considered “luxury” items. You heard that right. This “luxury tax” isn’t on watches or cruises or designer clothes; it’s on a necessity like tampons and sanitary pads. Think about it: If your wife, girlfriend, or friend asked you to pick up tampons or pads for her, would you be able to say with a straight face, “Times are tough, you know we don’t need extras like that”?
If every woman in the U.S. was charged this “tampon tax,” they’d collectively pay an extra $7.7 billion in these taxes for feminine hygiene products over their lifetimes — just for being born female! It’s a staggering number that is even worse when you consider women make 80% less than men over the course of their lives.
Unfortunately, the discrimination women face at checkout does not just end with this “tampon tax.” Women are also forced to pay more for personal care products than men pay for comparable items. A pack of women’s razors, for example, can cost 108% more than a pack of men’s razors. And this “Pink Tax”—as it is commonly known—applies to many other products. Women pay an average of 167% more per ounce of a bar of soap marketed toward women than one marketed toward men; 10% more for body wash; 8% more for deodorant; and 5% more for shaving gel. Over the course of a woman’s life, the negative financial impact is significant.
If you were not aware of Pink Tax, you are not alone. I’m embarrassed to admit that until a group of female employees brought the issue to my attention, I was unaware of the Pink Tax. And I was appalled to find out that not only is this an issue for my mother, my sister and my wife, but dismayed that we at Boxed were perpetuating it.
But we are not playing a role in these unfair practices any longer. We have changed our pricing so that our customers pay equal prices for equal products, regardless of their gender. We also reduced the list price on feminine hygiene products in states where they are taxed to compensate for the unfair tax treatment.
The true measure of a leader is what she or he does when what is right is not what is best for them personally – or for the bottom line. But for us, there was only one consideration: Is it the right thing to do? The clear answer, to us, is yes. And I would make the same decision again 11 times out of ten.
I am proud that we have become the first retailer, online or off, to take a major stand against unfair pricing for women, but I sincerely hope we are not the last.
Our work on this issue has just begun. It did not stop with lowering prices on our site. Boxed employees Nitasha Mehta and Max Dworin testified in the Colorado House of Representatives in favor of a bill repealing the tampon tax and again in the Nevada State Assembly in favor of a bill repealing the tax there. We have also begun working with legislators in Ohio and Michigan to help support similar repeal efforts in those states.
Social change is something that we didn’t set out to influence when we shipped out our first Boxed box. But as we have walked the path that is our entrepreneurial journey, it has become an inalienable part of our DNA.
Whether this happened because of the timing of world events, the nature of our business or our evolution as individuals, I am not certain. I do know, however, that the fight for equal rights is one that we will forever be supportive of.
My daughter is three years old, an age where she is blissfully unaware of the tampon tax, the Pink Tax or any of the other injustices women face in the workplace or at the cash register. When we first founded Boxed three years ago, we were setting out to build the country’s fourth wholesale club and the first one exclusively online. Now it our hope — and we have made it our mission — that our daughters don’t grow up in a world where they have to pay more for everyday products simply because they’re female.
To learn more about the fight against unfair gender pricing, visit https://www.boxed.com/rethinkpink
 In 2007, there were 61,994,825 women of childbearing age in the U.S. https://www.cdph.ca.gov/data/statistics/Documents/VSC-2007-0115.pdf
 Per The Huffington Post, a woman spends an average of $1,773.33 on tampons in her lifetime. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/18/period-cost-lifetime_n_7258780.html.