Discount Love Affair is One for the Ages

Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman December 15, 2013 16:00

It was 2003, and I was downright offended. A waitress at a Carrow’s near Barstow offered me a senior discount on the fish and chips. I took grave exception. I was 57 and thought she had a lot of nerve taking me for a senior – even though I was one.

In fact, I qualified for the restaurant’s discount by a comfortable two years, but nearly turned it down because – can you believe it? – I was convinced I didn’t look that old.

I’m over that now: Ten years later, vanity’s out the window, and I grab any discount available. Now I’d take grave exception if anyone thinks I’m not close enough to the grave to get one. Which, of course, never happens.

I demand the 15 percent discount at Applebee’s, the 10 percent discount at Burger King and any deals I can get on Big Macs or Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburgers at McDonald’s or Jack in the Box – even though the resulting diet might seriously shrink my discount-grabbing years.

I take discounts at movie theaters, motels, airlines and rent-a-car outfits. I travel Amtrak at 15 percent off.  I’m among the aisle-choking crowd that mobs Save Mart on Senior Tuesdays. And I think my America the Beautiful national parks pass – $10 for 62 and older and “good for lifetime” – is a thing of beauty.

Check out “senior discounts” online, and you’ll learn that we can do almost anything on the cheap: buy Cabernet at, go to Oakland A’s games, get into Chicago’s Art Institute, work out at Gold’s Gym, get a trim at Supercuts, an oil change at Jiffy Lube, a birthday card at Hallmark, flowers from Teleflora and admission to Ripley’s Believe It or Not museums nationwide.

Speaking of believe it or not: A Berlin brothel offers customers 66 and older half-price sex between noon and 5. And Australia’s ladies of the night (or day) give discounts to frisky geezers during National Seniors Week. That’s in early October, for those of you booking 2014 discount tickets on Qantas.

And to think most of us seniors believe “afternoon delight” is the early-bird special at Gus’s Steakhouse.

Bottom line: We may never run out of deals; lists a quarter-million of them.

But do I deserve such bargains? I own a home, live north of the poverty line, am in good health and have, I hope, years of discount spending ahead. Nobody throws me spaghetti dinners.

I’m not alone: Among the poorest members of American society a half-century ago, we seniors are much better off today. More of us own homes, cars and businesses than any other age group. Poverty – which in the mid-20th Century plagued older Americans and may have led to the first senior discounts – is now more widespread among the young.

Need it or not, we long-living boomers and seniors continue to scarf up every discount in sight. And we do so, say bean counters, even as we drag Social Security and Medicare toward a financial Armageddon some two decades down the pike.

The sniping has begun: “The Greediest Generation,” sneer a few strident Gen Xers, Millennials and their discount-deprived ilk.

Still not feeling sufficiently guilty, I dug up a 16-year-old Christian Science Monitor guest opinion from the cyber graveyard. In it political scientist Ted Rueter hammered our beloved discounts.

“Affirmative action for the wealthy,” he railed. “A class-action suit crying out to be filed.” Claiming senior discounts breed resentment among the young and cost our economy billions, Rueter called for their immediate abolition.

So, Ted, what happened with that?

What happened is that we boomers became an economic, political and demographic force. Consequently, discounts spread like the Rim Fire.

And the thousands of American businesses offering us deals are not doing so with a government knife to their collective back. Instead, these firms want our money and think discounts are a good way to get it.

It’s called free enterprise, and it would be positively un-American not to take advantage of it.

Those of you still free of creaking joints, thinning hair and shaky hands might consider this: Senior discounts, along with grandchildren, sleeping in and using what accumulated wisdom you can hold onto, just might brighten the prospect of getting old.

Then there’s that pesky Social Security and Medicare business: Yes, the AARP has drawn lines in the sand and pledges with the fervor (if not the armament) of the NRA to defend this entitlement turf from enemies of all political persuasions. Still, there is consensus that serious changes must be made if these programs are to survive the withdrawals we boomers will make.

If these needed changes are to happen, we 80 million boomers may have to make concessions and sacrifices for the greater good.

So I urge IHOP, Kohl’s, Verizon, Dunkin’ Donuts, Best Western, Perko’s, TCBY and thousands more enlightened businesses to keep those discounts coming.

Because if we have to give up bargain coffee, pancakes, drinks, lodging, clothing and frozen yogurt, we may not want to surrender a whole lot more.

Chris Bateman, a 40-year journalist, is working hard to retire. Read more at

Copyright © 2013 Friends and Neighbors Magazine



Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman December 15, 2013 16:00
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