Senior citizens’ discount: Stirring debate over what’s right, wrong | Inquirer News

Senior citizens’ discount: Stirring debate over what’s right, wrong

By: - Content Researcher Writer / @inquirerdotnet
/ 11:48 AM January 29, 2024

Senior citizens’ discount: Stirring debate over what’s right, wrong


(First part)

MANILA, Philippines—A recent policy by a well-known coffee chain restricting senior citizen discounts to just one food item and one beverage has brewed a storm of public discourse and controversy and even prompted a legislative inquiry.


Under Republic Act (RA) No. 9994 (Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010) and RA No. 10754 (Act Expanding the Benefits and Privileges of PWDs), senior citizens and persons with disability (PWDs) are given a 20-percent discount on top of their exemption from the 12-percent value-added tax (VAT) on certain goods and services.


Yet, a recent social media uproar, sparked by a social media post displaying a policy from a renowned coffee chain, has propelled this topic into the limelight.

The contentious post featured a photograph of a notice at a Starbucks branch, specifying the coffee chain’s approach to the discount. It stated:


“Starting January 15, 2024, food and beverage purchases with Senior Citizen, Person with Disability (PWD), and other government discounts shall be limited to one (1) food item and one (1) beverage only per visit.”

This incident has stirred a deeper dialogue across the nation, bringing to light the intricate balance between maintaining commercial viability and upholding social equity.

Mixed responses

Early reactions from social media users, who encountered the original post, criticized the coffee chain for implementing a rule they deemed unfair and insensitive, with many referencing the laws regarding senior citizen discounts.


One X (formerly Twitter) user wrote: “Some people really bitching about SC/PWD ID ‘abuse’ as if these people are not living on a very limited time?”

Following the viral spread of the social media post, lawyer Romulo Macalintal called on the House of Representatives to swiftly investigate reports that certain businesses are withholding discounts from senior citizens (SCs) and persons with disabilities (PWDs).

“As a senior citizen, I felt insulted by such a policy.  As if I am being suspected of cheating this coffee shop in that any additional order is not for my exclusive consumption but for others,” Macalintal said.

He further argued that if the coffee chain’s intention was to address potential abuses of the discount system for senior citizens and PWDs, the strategy should target the actual perpetrators of such abuses, rather than unfairly impacting the rights of PWDs and senior citizens.

Macalintal also represented a senior citizen in a related case in Pasig City, where legal actions were initiated against two hotel executives for their refusal to provide a 20-percent discount to a senior citizen.


Alternatively, following the posting of an article on social media regarding the controversy, several commenters on the platform debated that the restrictions implemented by Starbucks could be considered reasonable.

Some social media users pointed to instances of the discount being “abused” by certain consumers as a basis for their argument.

A comment by a social media user, who identified himself or herself  as a senior citizen, read: “I’m a senior citizen […] it has always been that only one person really gets the discount, just me even when I’m with my children, but I never complained, because I’m the only senior, so I was surprised why they imposed such a rule.”

Another comment, which was posted in Filipino, echoed the sentiment: “The law states that it’s for personal consumption. Would a senior order two drinks for themselves?”

“Maybe because it’s a multiple order transaction and in every transaction, the senior discount is used, but it’s not actually for the senior, which would be a violation of the law,” the commenter added.

Someone also added: “There are also many abusive seniors, the kind who want to discount everything even if it’s not for their consumption. They want their companions, like grandchildren or family members, to be included in their discount.”

In addition to these varying opinions, numerous social media users have called for a public boycott of Starbucks, encouraging support for local coffee shops instead.

Government probe

The dispute rapidly escalated beyond social media circles when Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez initiated an investigation into allegations of businesses refusing to provide discounts to senior citizens and PWDs, as mandated by current laws.

READ: Romualdez seeks probe into cases of denied discounts for seniors, PWDs

In a hearing of the House committee on ways and means, Starbucks Philippines Operations Director Angela Cole acknowledged the company’s mistake regarding the signage issue and confirmed its immediate removal.


Cole clarified that the signage was a response to employee requests for guidance on applying discounts.

“It was an error; our signage was not properly worded, so we acknowledge our mistake, and we are really disappointed at the confusion that we have caused,” Cole told lawmakers.

“The guideline …was never followed, and we remain steadfast in ensuring that we extend the privileges as intended in all our stores throughout the Philippines,” she added.

READ: Starbucks sorry for signage limiting seniors’ discount

Subsequently, Starbucks Philippines issued a public apology for the incident and reassured its customers that government-mandated discounts would continue to be honored for all food and beverage orders.

On January 24, the coffee chain announced a special one-day offer of a 40 percent discount on all food and drinks for senior citizens, persons with disabilities, national athletes, solo parents, and Medal of Valor recipients.

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