By Jill Cataldo
Last week we discussed some shoppers’ feelings of entitlement to coupon discounts, and the topic of senior citizen discounts deserves a follow-up. I recently devoted a column to this topic, featuring readers’ questions on whether or not an establishment has to offer discounts to seniors and whether stores and restaurants have the right to change the values of their senior citizen discounts at will.
As expected, this topic heated up my inbox:
Dear Jill: I recently found a list of stores that offer senior discounts online. A well-known department store chain was listed as giving 50 percent off purchases to those ages 50 and older. I went to this store and asked for the discount, as I am much older than 50. They said they don't have a senior discount. They also said another person had also asked for it. I'm just wondering, does this chain offer this? — Louise T.”
I removed the name of the store about which Louise was inquiring from her letter, as I can only imagine the hysteria (not to mention the legal trouble I could potentially face) if I named this store and a 50 percent senior discount in the same sentence! No, this major chain of stores is not offering a half-off discount to everyone over the age of 50. I’d be wary of any unofficial claims you might find online saying that a store is offering half-price discounts – that’s a pretty significant savings to potentially offer to half the population. How would the store stay in business? The best way to find out if a store offers a senior citizen discount is to go directly to the source – inquire at the store itself. Don’t rely on any unsubstantiated, unverified lists.
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Dear Jill: Just read your article about senior discounts in the paper. Thought I would share this true story with you. My wife and I were eating breakfast at a small mom-and-pop restaurant in Hannibal, Mo. We finished our meal and we headed to the cashier to pay our bill. I asked the lady if they offered a senior citizen discount. She pointed to a sign behind the cash register that read, “Senior citizen discount - must be at least 80 years old and accompanied by both parents.” — George and Barb V.
Cute! George and Barb weren’t the only ones who sent in humorous stories of senior discounts. Reader Chris has a funny tale of seniors taking their discount entitlement too far.
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Dear Jill: I enjoy your column each week, but this one I think will give you a giggle. In the mid-’80s I was in the Coast Guard stationed in Miami, home of senior early-bird restaurant specials and discounts.
At the time, a group of senior citizens was fighting an apartment complex in court. The seniors complained that the complex was giving "yuppie" discounts to people 20 to 40 years of age. The seniors argued that it was discrimination and unfair to them. The news showed a courtroom full of seniors holding signs and chanting.
While the judge agreed, before he made a ruling, he also stated that if the county couldn’t have yuppie discounts, then seniors couldn’t have discounts either, because that was discriminating against yuppies.
The senior citizens’ action group and attorney dropped the complaint. I laughed out loud! I try to take advantage of military discounts when I can, but don’t complain if I can’t. — Chris S.
Smart Living Tip: Establishments are not required to give senior discounts or any other kind of group-related discount for that matter. Stores and restaurants that offer discounts are making less profit on your purchase in the hope that you will return and patronize them regularly. Enjoy them, but don’t let a sense of entitlement take over. Discounts, like coupons, are a gift – not a right – and promotions like these may come and go.
Jill Cataldo Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to email@example.com.