Power to the pink dollar


Arthur Tam finds out how our spend-savvy gay and lesbian community is getting the biggest bang out of their buck with the help of the new Pink Dollar app

In these tough economic times, there’s one currency that remains strong – the pink dollar, that affectionate term for the collective buying power of members of the LGBT community and their supporters. “The estimated global spend of the LGBT community for 2012 could topple US$2 trillion,” says former investment banker Paul Ramscar. It was numbers like this and also the results from the 'Pink Dollar' survey  (an independent survey conducted by Leo Burnett in conjunction with Fruits in Suits) that prompted him to launch the aptly named Pink Dollar application,  which is set to bridge the gap between gay customers and businesses that are open to diversity. 

Pink Dollar is a mobile application that guides gay users to over 100 gay-friendly businesses in Hong Kong that have subscribed to be part of the Pink Dollar system. The businesses range from restaurants to property agents, spas, financial advisors and even new age healers. When customers dine or get a massage, they can rate and review that business on a scale of light pink to dark pink. Light pink means that gays should beware of the business while dark pink means they’re proudly flying the rainbow flag. Businesses that receive poor ratings will most likely get a call from Ramscar himself to discuss the poor review and find ways for the business to improve their ‘homo hospitality’. Customers will be given redemption points for taking time to write a review, which can be exchanged for gifts in the Pink Dollar store. The app also has some rather fancy coupon technology, which Ramscar is excited to launch. “When a business has a promotion, we can send e-coupons to all of our users,” he explains. “All you have to do is swipe your Pink Dollar app to the store owner’s phone app and the coupon will apply.”

The whole interactive experience of Pink Dollar is meant to bring the community together and to better inform shoppers and visitors to Hong Kong about where they can feel comfortable using their pink dollars. “If a gay couple goes into a restaurant and holds hands and there aren’t any raised eyebrows we would hope that [another] couple that goes in would have the same experience,” Ramscar says. At the same time retailers and shops will also benefit from Pink Dollar because they will be able to promote their businesses to a lucrative sector of the market they might not have been aware they could tap into before.

Judging by the results of Ramscar’s Pink Dollar survey, the app could become a profitable and productive way for businesses to draw in and retain customers. The survey shows that many customers (not only gays) are put off by discrimination. “A large percentage said that if they found a business to be discriminating they would boycott the brand, while 74 percent said that they would be more likely to try a business that is gay-friendly.”

Ramscar is already building up hype by promoting his app at Hong Kong’s only monthly gay networking event for professionals, Fruits in Suits, where he has announced that a portion of Pink Dollar’s profits will go to LGBT charities. Since forming back in 2004, Fruits in Suits regularly hosts 50-plus attendees at each of their events, where bankers, PR reps and business owners mix, mingle and decide where they should spend their pink buck.

The app will be launched at the end of this month in English, but Ramscar tells us that there will also be a Chinese version released at a later date, addressing Hong Kong’s local market. This is just the beginning for Pink Dollar. For Ramscar, he envisions that the app has the potential to change the social platform for gays and lesbians in Hong Kong. He hopes hundreds of gay-friendly businesses could band together and petition the government for a better chance to fight for gay rights in the city. And as the saying goes, ‘money talks, people walk’ – so perhaps all it takes is the harnessing of gay and lesbian spending power to shift the political views of this megacity.

To find out more about Pink Dollar head to www.pinkdollarinc.com.



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