News and Tribune


March 8, 2013

STAWAR: The senior discount: Asset or insult?


Young single parents are probably a more deserving demographic group for such discounts, but of course senior discounts are not based on altruism. Originally, they were intended to encourage older people, with fixed incomes, to make purchases they might otherwise avoid. 

Today, however, they are clearly designed to attract an expanding market segment that has lots of disposable income, as well as lots of time to shop. Jim Gilmartin, the owner of Coming of Age, a marketing company specializing in reaching older consumers, says that senior discounts “sort of exploded exponentially as older shoppers came to represent a fast-growing demographic.” 

Campbell concluded his anti-discount tirade saying, “What I wonder about is why thirty- and forty-somethings aren’t livid that senior citizens — the most pampered, patronized and pandered-to group in America — get to save money simply by maintaining a pulse.” 

Personally, it’s not so much getting older that bothers me as constantly having it pointed out in unexpected ways. Not that long ago, Diane and I went to a restaurant where they featured live music at night. After a while, I went up to the counter and ordered a pizza. The cheery waitress, who looked to be about 12 years old, took my money and said that she would bring it to our table when it was ready. 

The room was very crowded, so I was surprised when 10 minutes later the girl arrived and delivered the pizza right to us, without any difficulty or hesitation. I was innocently eating a slice and enjoying the music when I absentmindedly looked at the back of my receipt. There written quite clearly were the unforgiving words: “Old guy in blue shirt.” And I didn’t even get a discount. 

I’ve read where people have successfully sued businesses where employees have written insulting comments or discriminatory descriptions on receipts to be able to remember the customer. I’m afraid my only grounds for going to court would be that my shirt was actually more of a teal than blue. Frankly, I’m just happy she didn’t write down “Fat, bald and stupid old guy in a blue shirt.”

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