The senior citizens in the Philippines are entitled to the senior citizen discount when they dine in or buy from commercial establishments. It’s a boon when, say, the restaurant, gives the full 20 percent discount. It’s a bane when establishments find ways and means to get around giving the discount that you end up not knowing whether to laugh at the absolute ludicrousness of the situation or salvage the vacuity of the person serving you and your family like, for example, at Max’s, the iconic house of fried chicken. Don’t get me wrong – the waiters were properly trained in caring for the business but perhaps trained too well to the point of losing their common sense.
“What did the senior citizen eat?” asked the waiter of Max’s at SM Megamall politely.
Everyone at the table looked at him incredulously making him laugh nervously and utter, “It’s our policy, ma’am/sir.”
“What do you mean what did he eat? Well, obviously, he ate everything that we did,” retorted my mother and sister in near-perfect synchronicity.
Meanwhile, my father let loose a sarcastic chuckle and I gave him the evil look. Can you say outrageous?
It was settled in this matter: we told the waiter my father had the chicken, noodles and tofu. The discount was applied only on the price of the chicken.
Max’s modus operandi isn’t eyebrow-raising as the modus operandi of Amber, one of the restaurants along Tomas Morato, which takes the cake in circumventing in giving the full discount to the legitimate card-carrying senior citizen. Order one whole chicken and they’ll only offer the 20 percent for a piece of the entire chicken, say, the thigh or drumstick. The modus operandi of Better than Ice Cream, an alternative ice cream vendor with various kiosks in several malls, is like reverse psychology wherein they flourish the legislation in your face. The legislation, photocopied and taped to the window display, has the statement that they’re not allowed to give the discount because they’re not a restaurant highlighted in yellow. I’ve never heard of cases of business operators being arrested for offering discounts to their clients, but this line of reasoning for not honoring the senior citizen discount reminds me of unctuous lawyers and businessmen painting the 20-percent discount concept as an abhorrent legislation and the senior citizens as highway robbers.
But there’s a silver lining in the clouds for our silver-haired citizens as there are other establishments that don’t begrudge them their entitlement without asking stupid questions or making ridiculous excuses for their employers. Amici on Tomas Morato is fantastic: they graciously accept the senior card, key in the necessary numbers in the cash register and return it with a smile over several separate purchases. If you ordered again, say, five cups of gelato – mint, chocolate, strawberry, pistachio and tiramisu – after having paid for pasta and pizza earlier on, the full 20 percent discount together with an exemption of paying the value-added tax (VAT as everyone calls it in the country)is still given. How’s that for being customer-centric and for enhancing customer satisfaction?
Following in the wonderful footsteps of Amici is The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. The outlet my family and I visited was on the ground floor of Gateway Mall in Cubao. From the smile to serving the genmaicha green tea, mocha ice blended, pure double chocolate ice blended, brew of the day and slice of Triple Decker cheesecake, Camille, the cashier, keyed in all requisite numbers into her neat cash register just like her counterpart Myrla at Amici.
Joining the list of senior citizen-friendly establishments I visited were Don Steban, a restaurant that specializes in the delicacies of Quezon province, as well as Pancit Taga na Malabon although VAT exemption for the two restaurants isn’t as grand at Amici’s and The Coffee Bean &Tea Leaf.
To give a discount or not to give a discount – that’s the dilemma faced by entrepreneurs. Discount narrows, in the eyes of business operators, the profit margin that they always like to see expand exponentially and not shrink. But telling a businessman that a healthy profit margin is enough or that customers will come back if they’re satisfied with product and service is like talking to a wall. Consumers nowadays don’t just buy the product; they’re now looking behind the production line with a keen eye and one major question. They’re asking: Is customer satisfaction a real guiding principle or an empty marketing shtick to milk buyers of their money?
The norms of modern-day business practices call for keeping the customers – senior or otherwise – satisfied dovetailed with a more benevolent approach to conducting business. This is where the senior citizen discount fits in nicely as it’s a generous way to say thank you to them for nurturing the community.