The Senior Citizen Discount: Doesn't Hurt To Ask

Last Updated May 26, 2010 9:19 AM EDT

My mom came to Pennsylvania to visit her grandkids. And she brought her dog, Riley, so we could get a second opinion on Riley's lame back right leg. Try to forget, if possible, the absurdity of our seeking a second opinion for a pooch. The diagnosis? Riley had a ruptured ACL. She's on the doggie disabled list.

The Allentown vet did the surgery to repair the ACL, and the invoice for it included 23 items. Here's a sample. (Can I remind you that this is a DOG we're talking about?)

Intravenous catheterization: $54.50

Fluids Per Liter: $32.00

Operating room: $185.00

Intensive Care Level I - K/9: $106.00

But at the end of the invoice, I noticed a deduction: -$174.69. Senior citizen discount. The dog is 7, which is young middle age for said K/9. The owner, however, is a senior citizen, and the vet kindly gave my mom a discount, which we didn't ask for and he didn't mention.

Maybe it's simply that he's a nice guy, and he gives the markdown to all senior pet owners. Or maybe it was because he noticed our jaws drop when he was describing the pricier full canine knee reconstruction, with the metal plate and screw, costing about $3,000. (We balked at that one; there are limits to puppy love.) Whatever the vet's motivation, the discount was a nice surprise at the end of an episode that was taxing on both the dog and my mother's wallet.

And it did get me wondering: If a vet offers a senior citizen discount, unsolicited, who else is prepared to slash the bill for seniors? Attorneys? Dentists? Financial planners? I called the AARP to inquire about that, and see what etiquette dictates in this situation. Would a senior who's always demanding a discount wear out her welcome?

"AARP can only speak about the discounts that we make available to AARP members," said spokesperson Elly Spinweber. "That said, I can tell you it certainly never hurts to ask about discounts, especially in a down economy, when businesses are working to keep and grow their customer base. Asking is always a good idea, and savvy consumers do this every day."

So ask away. Which my mom did, a few days later, at the box office for the IronPigs, the Triple A baseball team in Allentown. No dice there. She might want to join the AARP, however. For a $16 annual fee, she'd have access to online deals on everything from Target.com to cell phone service to clothing stores. Petco.com and PetStore.com too. (Just something to keep in mind, Mom!)

Riley is now happily recovering from her procedure, thanks to the antibiotics ($13.90), painkillers ($7.60), and anti-inflammatories ($44.80) she had to take after the surgery, plus the follow-up visits with her home vet. Another 30 days and she should be back to chasing tennis balls and jumping up on visitors in dry clean only pants. Let's hope her left ACL remains intact.

Just one question remains: If the "sandwich generation" takes care of their kids and their parents, what do you call someone, like me, who takes care of their kids and their parents' dogs? The wiener generation?

Sign in to offer a suggestion below. And if you've received any great senior discounts? We'd love to hear about those too.

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