By Digoy Fernandez Corporate social responsibility (CSR), as many of its modern adherents agree, is not just about setting aside a certain amount each year to be dispensed with as a gift-giving exercise. The genre has embraced almost all aspects of a corporate entity and its various publics. Today, I will dwell on the tribe many corporations have viewed with a bit of trepidation, the growing ranks of senior citizens. And all because of mandatory discounts or freebies that either national or local regulations allow for this hallowed group that has seen its prime passing by. My friend and colleague in this paper, Mon Farolan -- who is also an alumnus of the Asian Institute of Management, aside from his storied history in both the military and the diplomatic worlds -- has long dwelt on one particular aspect of the law: the 20 percent discount given to senior citizens for medicines and for restaurant purchases. The 20 percent discount is applied more in the breach than in the spirit of the law. Many establishments, including one particular pet peeve of former ambassador Mon, impose artificial rules and ceilings that do not appear in the law. Here are just a few examples of how establishments go around the rule: • A well known drug distribution outfit used to refuse to apply the discount when credit cards were used. Fortunately, the crusading effort of Mon Farolan set that straight. • Some stores apply the 20 percent discount based on their own in-house formula. For example, if Mr A, a senior, eats with 3 family members, not seniors, one restaurant divides the discount amount by 4. Another restaurant gives only 10 percent and hopes you will not act like an eagle eye accountant. Very few apply the 20 percent directly to the amount pertaining to the food eaten by Mr A. On the other hand, not a few cashiers submit to the hassle of applying discounts in a way that will force them to compute and apply the 20 percent discount across the board. While this is good for guys like Mr A, it beggars the bottom line of said establishments. • One establishment takes the cake when faced with an inquiry about the senior citizen discount. The wise old lady behind the counter asks for the booklet, which is not usually required for restaurant purchases, and says she will then give a 5 percent discount. If one is not properly insulted by the first request, the offer of only 5 percent makes one resolve not to ever darken the said establishment again. But to prevent this smart aleck proprietress from a victory, I am considering reporting her to the mayor of her town that has taken establishments violating the senior citizens law to task. One day, my wife and I went to watch that wonderful movie based on the musical "Mamma Mia" here. I betray my age and my preference for music, especially that of ABBA, as we saw a fair sprinkling of senior citizens present. This was courtesy of a city ordinance that mandates free entrance for them to movie theaters. A few of these venerable old men were even snoring away, enjoying the ambience of an air-conditioned place where they could rest and catch a few winks. My heart always goes out to these older citizens because I often picture myself in their shoes in just so many years. Senior citizens belong to a generation that has already made its mark in society and contributed to its growth or ascendancy. Their progeny now carry the torch, but our seniors deserve whatever break we can give them especially in these years when their earning power is drastically reduced, making them rely on pitiful pensions.
July 2008 Archives
A while back, we wrote about the air-powered car that has gained some credence because of the much-needed backing of the big group Tata of India, a conglomerate that also recently absorbed the Land Rover and Jaguar operations from a cash-strapped Ford Motor Company. Now here comes another motive source that has been bruited about for some time: the water-powered car. However, the people behind this project claim that their car runs on more than just clean water. Supposedly, it can also run on salt water, soft drinks, alcohol, etc. Imagine this scene evolving in front of a bar or nightspot: A proud owner of a water-powered car goes in to partake of his favorite libations and then, feeling the call of nature, goes out to his car to empty himself of waste fluids directly into the gas tank. Ugh! The company that developed the car, Genepax, is now the happy beneficiary of attention from prime car companies Honda and Toyota. If they are interested in this technology, this means that there is something to it after all. Meanwhile, we recall a Filipino inventor named Daniel Dingel who also touted a water-powered car using roughly the same technical process as proposed for the Genepax car. Whatever happened to inventor Dingel? Well, it seems that time and his reticence has passed him by. I actually met the fellow and he made me go over his car, smell the exhaust (no fumes!) coming out of the rear pipe, and so forth. My friend and I, both retired bankers, encouraged Dingel to sign an agreement with one or two big car companies after protecting himself with the appropriate patents. It seems that the paranoid inventor feared having his invention stolen and the technology mined to his detriment. Well, as we said, the train passed by and no one will certainly talk to Dingel now that enough research and development work has gone into non-traditional means of automobile motivation. Watch the following feed which shows both the Genepax car and an old Youtube video of the Dingel car.