Don't Discount Discounts

By Valerie Lemke

November 20, 2008 5 min read

DON'T DISCOUNT DISCOUNTS

Take advantage of price reductions at a variety of places

Valerie Lemke

Creators News Service

Not all senior moments are bad. Take the senior discount, for example.

For more than half a century, mature adults (generally 50 years and up) have been eligible for discounts on all kinds of items, from a cup of coffee to a luxury cruise.

Savings range from five to 10 percent on most items, but can be worth far more on high-end offerings. On any given day there are thousands of discounts waiting for the mature among us.

Seniors who tap into www.seniordiscounts.com are greeted with a database of more than 150,000 bargains, with 100 to 300 new discounts added each month, according to president David Smidt. An inexpensive annual fee enables you to search for up-to-date senior discounts in more than 20 categories by city, state or zip code, and a free weekly online newsletter offers nationwide discounts as well as discount tips submitted by seniors themselves.

"We're like an online yellow pages offering discounts to seniors," Smidt said.

The site, which was founded eight years ago, has become more important now than ever. "Recently, with the economy becoming such a big issue, we have experienced lots of hits, plus an increase in membership," he said.

Armed with the information about these perks, seniors can save big time -- but you may need to ask for your discount.

"Most companies do not advertise or post discounts, and often employees are told not to offer them for fear of insulting the customer," Smidt said. "In addition, some businesses use discounts to fill a lull in their sales. Restaurants may offer seniors special prices for early dining, but that's probably not posted."

Supermarkets and other regional and national chains especially may also need the inquiry. "Grocery stores tend to offer 10 percent off Tuesday or Wednesday, and may offer 10 percent off the entire bill, for example," he said. "I always tell seniors, 'Don't be embarrassed. Unless you ask, they won't tell you.' That's the big kicker."

There's a bonus for the company offering the discount, too -- seniors are loyal. "When they find a place they like, they continue to go back," Smidt said.

With so many members and the increasing number of discounts on seniordiscounts.com, Smidt's company is acquiring some undocumented demographics.

"We have information from all 50 states," he said. "When we started, membership was skewed female but [it] is moving closer to 50-50. This may be because we're having more and more younger people joining the senior realm, and more males are computer savvy," he said.

In addition to keeping track of where their consumers are, the company has found where the biggest discounts are. "We also know overall dollar savings are largest in the big-ticket items," Smidt said. "Hotel discounts may be 50 percent and tickets for cultural events such as the symphony, plays, museums and zoos are higher than the normal 5 to 10 percent."

There are items that can be completely free for seniors, too, such as a pass that provides free lifetime admission to any national park or monument.

Providing instant information about where and how the older generation may access discounts is partially a labor of love for Smidt.

"Seniors deserve a bonus. Most have worked hard all of their adult life and have provided a great service," he said. "And those on a fixed income can really use a discount."

For those who don't have a computer, seniordiscounts.com now offers the SeniorDiscounts Guide Book, a printed version of all the database information in an easy-to-read form that is updated every year and available at your local bookstore.

"Given the current economy, these discounts come in handy, particularly to the many seniors who live on a fixed income," said Charee Gillins, a spokesperson for the California branch of AARP.

In addition to responding to the needs and concerns of their 40 million members, AARP offers a wide variety of discounts. "We are signing up service providers all the time," he said. Visit www.aarp.org for information.

Other websites that list senior discounts include:

* Seasonedspender.com, a free site that features discounts based on your zip code and how many miles you are willing to travel.

* Shortcuts.com, which features free coupons that link to your supermarket rewards card.

* Seniorjournal.com, which gives prescription discounts both to you and your pet.

* Smarttravel.com, a site that offers discounts on hotels, rental cars and a variety of cruises.

* Shopathome.com, which offers coupons from thousands of brand name stores across the country.

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