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Hope Cleaners Prices for Men’s vs. Women’s Shirts Class Action

Row of Shirts on Dry Cleaner's Hangers

The complaint claims that “in 1994, the State of California estimated that the average woman is charged an extra $1,351.00 per year, simply for being a woman…” How so? Women are often charged more than men for exactly the same product or service. In this class action, the complaint alleges that GreenTree Cleaners, Inc., doing business as Hope Cleaners, charges women more than men for the exact same cleaning services.

The class for this action is all consumers in Missouri who paid Hope to dry clean women’s shirts or blouses, between October 28, 2014 and October 28, 2019.

The differential in pricing for women and men is known as the Pink Tax. While some differences in pricing are justified by differences in the products or services offered, this is not true of all of such differences in charges. Some areas, such as New York, California, and Miami-Dade County in Florida, have laws outlawing such gender-differential pricing, and a similar bill was introduced in Congress in April 2019.

The complaint says, “This lawsuit concerns a particularly pernicious and predatory example of unfair gender-discriminatory pricing: [Hope Cleaners’s] practice of charging, across-the-board, a substantially greater amount to dry-clean women’s shirts than [Hope] charges to dry-clean men’s shirts.” Why? “There is no compelling difference between the labor or materials employed for women’s versus men’s shirts to justify any price differential, and certainly not a price differential as grossly excessive as that charged by [Hope].”

Plaintiff Carla Been filed this complaint after an experience at Hope Cleaners. She brought in two shirts to be cleaned, one a woman’s shirt and the other a man’s. The two garments were similar in quality, style, and material, both being made of 100% cotton and both requiring dry cleaning. She was charged $6.55 for the women’s shirt but only $2.90 for the men’s shirt. In other words, the cleaning of the men’s shirt cost her less than half as much as the cleaning for the woman’s shirt.

The complaint alleges that charging the higher price to women violates the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) which outlaws “unfair practices.” It also suggests other laws that may apply or influence a court in its favor, such as the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and also the Clayton Act, as amended by the Robinson-Patman Act, which says that businesses should not “discriminate in price between different purchasers of commodities of like grade and quality…”

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