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Making Your Money Last

Why Should Seniors Get the Discounts?

Lower prices for the elderly herald from a bygone era, but they're not going anywhere. Plus, when is imitation not flattery?

Is it right for restaurants, movie theaters and hotels to offer discounts to all senior citizens, regardless of their means? I'm a thirtysomething woman with family responsibilities on a modest income, and no one gives me a discount for anything.

Discounts for seniors go back to an era when most elderly Americans were less well off than their fellow citizens. That's no longer the case, but the discounts linger. Many seniors expect them, so it's hard for businesses to abandon them.

Discounts are offered to a variety of other people, too, such as clergy and military personnel, out of respect for their service. There are discounts for children, to encourage parents to bring them along to a restaurant or hotel, rather than make the family stay home. And discounts are offered to large associations -- such as AAA -- to attract the patronage of their members. Yes, it would be more fair for every customer to pay the same price for the same goods and services. But that's not going to happen.

Imitation isn't flattery

I'm an interior designer at an architecture firm, and one of our important corporate clients has asked us to design and have made -- at a low price -- close copies of an expensive line of contemporary furniture. My boss says this is perfectly legal, as long as I modify slightly some details and proportions of the designer line. I think this is unethical. What should I do?


I'm with you. It may be technically legal, but your boss is asking you to flout the intellectual-property rights of the original designer and maker.

Courteously share your concerns with your boss and suggest that you both discuss this with the client. To help bolster your case, you should recommend to the client another line of original furnishings that are similar but within its budget.