Thursday, June 30, 2011

How old are you?

Last week my son and I were making the rounds of our new neighborhood. After yet another introduction, O growled as we walked away, "How come it's okay for adults to ask me how old I am, but it's rude if I ask how old they are?"

Good observation, my boy!

Part of the reason, I explained, is that many adults are often at a loss making conversation with kids. They don't have young children or they're not in tune with what's going on in Kid World, so rather than ask if you're planning to see Cars II, they fall back on what I call "numbers questions": "What grade are you in?" "How long have you been out of school?" "How old are you?" Even people who do have children ask this because they're trying to figure out if their kid is the same age. A more polite way of asking the question would be indirectly, such as, "You look to be the same age as my 10-year-old son." O agreed this was the more civilized, respectful approach.

Flash forward to two nights ago. O and I were at the cash register at Savers, a chain thrift store. The cashier, who looked to be all of 20 years old, asks me, "Are you 55 or older?" I wasn't sure I heard her right and said, "Excuse me?" She giggles and says a little more loudly, "Are you 55 or older?" By now there must have been a shocked look on my face because she adds, "I'm sorry ... it's a store policy. I have to ask everyone that question because we give a discount to seniors."

"You ask that of everyone?" I asked, dumbfounded.

"Unless they look like a teenager."

"So you've managed to insult a customer twice in less than 30 seconds," I responded. "Well done."

She didn't know what to make of my comment -- perhaps the math in my sentence confused her -- and after I paid I lingered at bit at a display to hear how she rang out the people behind me, a couple that definitely didn't look like fans of Justin Bieber. Nope, they didn't get asked if they were 55+.

When I got home I sent an e-mail to Savers' customer service, asking if it was their policy to ask customers for their ages because IMO, it's a pretty stupid policy. First of all, because it's Savers, a freaking thrift shop. Customers are already getting a pretty good discount! Second, because no matter what your age -- 22, 30, 46, 65, 82 -- do you really want to hear that you look like you could be over 55, especially when all you're trying to do is buy two pairs of boys' shorts, a paperback book, and a bag of Matchbox cars for a grand total of $11? I just want to pay and get out of there, not have to answer questions about my age or whatever -- it's none of their freaking business. And third, if you've ever shopped with someone who is eligible for a senior discount, you know they'll let the cashier know pronto they're entitled to it.

This exchange left such a bad taste in my mouth, I don't plan to ever shop at Savers again. If I want someone to ask me my age, I can visit my doctor's office. Or go to a bar.

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