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  • Gary Grewal

Everything Wrong with Discounts (Senior, Child, and More)



So with the holiday season and inflation, in full swing, many consumers are trying to find ways to ease the pain whenever they open up their wallets.

What is one of the most common ways to do this? Deals and Discounts of course!

Did your parents ever take you out to eat on random Tuesday nights, instead of on the weekend? Well, it's because many restaurants offer kids eat free, or at least half off to reel the parents in on an otherwise slow night of business.

From when we are just rambunctious young kids to when we are fragile old seniors, there is a discount for many walks of life. Youth discounts, student discounts, veterans discounts, senior discounts, and most recently first responder or front-line worker discounts.

All of those groups are well-deserving parties! Yet surely they are groups that feel stifled out there when there isn't a discount that serves them.

Youth/Student discounts

When I was in college, you could easily get discounts on transit, movie tickets, amusement parks, and even gym memberships if you were under 18 or at least had a student ID.

The local transit operator, for example, gives FREE rides during the summer for those under 19. I think it's a wonderful gesture to support the local community, since most youngins don't have a car or their license, and have flexible enough schedules where sparse suburban public transit can work.

Youth can also get heavily discounted gym memberships, or free gym memberships over the summer, like Planet Fitness did this past summer.

A great idea in my mind, as teens get to start healthy lifestyle habits, or at least do something that keeps them out of trouble, and maybe it will encourage their parents or siblings to work out with them.

The gym wins too because by giving teens a free membership, their family members may want to join as paying members. It's similar to the BOGO offers, as two people get to eat a meal, but it only costs the price of one.

So what's the matter with these discounts? Well, for some millennials, like me, we never got cool deals like this! But we're not bitter and that's beside the point.

What about the teens and youth who don't have a student ID, because they had to work, chose to go into the trades, or start their own landscaping business?

Sure one could argue that they are working, and so can afford these discounts. Yet if a student has the means to go to college on a scholarship or via a generous parent/relative, who's to say they even need that discount more than the one that couldn't afford college? Or took an equally productive route?

Profession Discounts

Next, we have discounts depending on what profession you have. I fully support our first responders and veterans and think we owe them the world for protecting us and affording us our freedom.

That being said, why not normalize the value that the service industry provides us in general?

I would argue to say veterans risked everything by joining the military and should be treated with respect. However, physicians and nurses are considered front-line workers, and also qualify for some of those discounts.

A kind gesture indeed, but does a healthcare worker making well over six figures need a discount more than the construction worker who built their house or the maid who cleans it?

Whether it's coffee, car rentals, or Christmas cards, many generous business owners and companies generously offer their products and services to a variety of profiles. Yet it could just be an unconscious bias of overlooking others who might benefit more from the discount and service it just as much as the last guy.

Have you ever had an assumption about certain types of occupations that completely changed after you got to know someone in that occupation? That happened to me when I met a travel agent.

Senior Discounts

I'm sure I've already pressed a few buttons, so why stop now!? Seriously though, it's only after questioning norms and taking a pause do we come to the conclusion that we've been doing things suboptimally and are motivated to change.

AARP is a very powerful organization, and my observation is that seniors are the most attentive when it comes to discounts they should be entitled to.

I've seen them come to Starbucks or Panera Bread with just enough coins for a discounted cup of coffee. And before you say a lot of seniors are on a fixed income, these guys rolled up in an S550!

Senior discounts are the most widespread and expansive kind of discounts I've seen. Yet for those of us in the FI community, your golden years should be when you've accumulated plenty of money and loosen up the purse strings a little bit.

Sure, you might be thinking "So they give a major company like Starbucks or Panera Bread less money, what's the big deal?" Well, sure it's a large corporation it's probably not as damaging, but it's the precedent that we do it because they are one of the neediest groups.

Yet if that was the case, why are there "senior" discounts at country clubs, massage parlors, luxury hotels, and wineries? Pretty sure those aren't "essential" needs.

Maybe this is my own unconscious bias, yet I think working parents are the ones who need the most help with discounts. They are just starting out in their lives, balancing raising kids with careers and businesses, and being burdened with the rising costs of housing, childcare, and healthcare.

Have you heard of the "sandwich generation"? Imagine the pressure you'd feel if you have kids, a spouse, a house, and parents reliant on your income.

If there was a way to provide discounts that made sure it only went to those who needed them, similar to how welfare programs or tax credits are given, that would make it more equitable. Maybe an ID that verifies income and assets? LOL

Yet I can't imagine what an administrative nightmare that would be, and maybe businesses just do it to compete with other businesses, cater to groups with higher disposable incomes *cough..seniors..cough*, and reel in more members of the same household as a marketing strategy.

What do you think? What's the most outrageous discount you've seen?

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