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March 8, 2013

STAWAR: The senior discount: Asset or insult?

(Continued)

Some businesses and restaurants have tried to accommodate baby boomers by using euphemisms like “Boomer Bargains” to describe their senior discounts. The American Association of Retired Persons (rebranded simply as AARP) accepts anyone more than 50 years of age, retired or not, and they consistently use the term “member” rather than senior. They are also careful to refer to their specially negotiated discounts as “member benefits” rather than “senior discounts.”

Former organizational development consultant Roland Hansen has recently complied a comprehensive list of many well-known businesses that offer senior discounts on his blog (rolandsramblings.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/discounts-for-senior-citizens). Caroline Mayer, a consumer reporter who worked for The Washington Post, warns, however, that senior discounts are not always the best deal. She says that other promotions that are available to the general public, regardless of age, are often better bargains. 

One investigative reporter found that the senior checking account at one bank actually was much more expensive than the regular checking account the bank offered. In addition, Mayer says you may be able to save even more through bargain websites, like Groupon or Priceline, than you can with a senior discount 

In 1997, political scientist Ted Rueter wrote an editorial in the Christian Science Monitor titled “Senior Citizen Discounts are Affirmative Action for the Wealthy,” in which he called for an end to senior discounts saying, “They cost American business billions of dollars. They breed resentment among the young. They are part of the battle over generational equity [and] They are probably unconstitutional.” 

Just last year, a USA Today op-ed piece written by a journalist named Don Campbell (a senior himself) again argued that senior discounts should be eliminated mainly because, older folks, on the average, are considerably wealthier than young adults, who end up subsidizing the discounts. 

Research conducted by the Pew Research Center reveals the gradually increasing net worth of people over 65 and the simultaneous decreasing net worth in households headed by people under 35. Many senior discounts start at the age of 50 or 55, which is usually prior to retirement for most Americans and are often a worker’s peak earning years. 

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