Wednesday, November 22, 2017
News Roundup

Websites, apps can direct you to discounts

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Maybe they are embarrassed about their age. Or unaware of the many discount programs for seniors. Or simply thinking about something else.

All are reasons that seniors may not ask for or receive the discounts they qualify for at myriad retailers. After all, a Walgreens cashier can't be expected to automatically deduct the 20 percent senior discount the chain offers on the first Tuesday of the month. And many shoppers, particularly those who are just in their 50s, for whom there are fewer offers, aren't in the habit of asking if a discount is an option.

But for coupon-cutters of a certain age who have nothing against technology, the world can easily become a less expensive place. Websites such as the Senior List (theseniorlist.com) and Retired Brains (retiredbrains.com) post and update compendiums of businesses that give breaks to customers who have reached milestone birthdays.

The Senior List, for instance, lists dozens of restaurants where older people can qualify for discounts of 10 percent or more, including such major chains as Applebee's, Ben & Jerry's, Burger King and Chili's.

Retired Brains offers more categories of discounts, like apparel, travel, groceries and entertainment. Who knew that baby boomers and others over 62 could get 10 percent off clothing at Banana Republic and 5 percent off at Greyhound? Or that a 55th birthday qualifies purchasers for 10 percent off Best Western hotels and Midas auto services? (Discounts and deals may vary by the individual store or franchise.)

Apps, too, have started to facilitate age-based deal hunting. The Senior Discounts app available at the Apple App Store ($1.99) lets users enter their birth year to show the offers for which they qualify: up to 30 percent off at AMC Theatres for people 60 and older, and 10 percent off purchases at Goodwill on certain days of the week for those 55 and older. Boston Market offers those 60 and older a discount.

The Senior Savings app (99 cents at the App Store) shows lists of businesses that offer discounts, scrollable either alphabetically or by age. Turning 65, for example, lowers the suggested admission fee at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

AARP, whose 50-and-older card carriers are eligible for an array of members-only discounts, has its own free app alerting members to places where they can save money.

But it is a newer app on the senior discount scene, Sciddy, that may be the most ambitious yet. For $7.99 at the App Store or Google Play, it finds people 50 and older discounts. Sciddy uses GPS technology to alert its users when they have walked into a business that will offer them a discount.

The goal, said Steve Mitchener, who developed Sciddy as a website in 2011 and turned it into an app last year, is to eliminate the "out of sight, out of mind" nature of senior discounts.

Although there is significant overlap among all the senior discount lists, the difference is the automatic reminder.

For example, "If you go to Applebee's, it'll tell you, 'Hey, don't forget to ask for your senior discount,' " Mitchener said. Phones not on mute get a ka-ching! notification in addition to a visual cue.

Mitchener, who is 59 and lives in St. Louis, has six children and seven grandchildren, so he grew accustomed to looking for "kids eat free" signs. Then he realized that, even though he hasn't considered retiring and won't for several years, he is old enough to rack up considerable savings when he picks up the check for his large brood, whether at restaurants or the department stores where he and his wife take their grandchildren back-to-school shopping.

Most users pay off the cost of the app through savings within the first month, Mitchener said.

The app's nine categories for savings include travel (hotels and rental car companies), entertainment (movie theaters, golf courses and concert halls) and pets. "A lot of people don't know you can be 55 and save money at the vet's office," he said.

Sciddy has identified 260,000 senior discounts, and Mitchener thinks as many as 1 million may be available nationwide, including individual stores within franchises. For example, some Dairy Queens offer senior discounts, but others don't.

His team scours the country daily for establishments to add, including those individual franchises. Some Sciddy enthusiasts help by way of a forum where they post new finds and also exchange notes about their experiences with how well, or how poorly, a business honored a discount. A frequent topic is carding, or the need to prove one's age to get a discount: "It hardly ever happens," Mitchener said.

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