Last weekend, my ID got denied. I got asked for a second form of identification, stared back blankly at the guy who demanded it, and was told there was nothing he could do to help me. I slumped, feeling rejected with my recently expired student ID card tucked back in my wallet. And then I walked out of TopShop.
I recently graduated college in June, which unfortunately is tattooed in fine print on my student ID. Apparently, the day I graduated from college was the same day I became fiscally prepared to pay full-price for a movie ticket, J. Crew blouse, TopShop dress, museum visit, train ride, gym membership and Amazon Prime. Seeing as it's also the day a large portion of college grads become independent of their parents, this logic seems off.
Starting when I was a freshman, I remember specifically venturing to eat at restaurants, shop at boutiques and watch movies at the locations in my college town that offered the holy ten percent discount I was allotted to as a student. For four glorious years I enjoyed this temporary treat.
The discounts I named above are not splashed across the business's websites or promoted by the staff; they're relatively hidden. TopShop will typically ask younger shoppers if they have a student ID and select movie theaters or museums will display a student rate, but few are explicitly advertised. However, what confuses me most is not the lack of publicity the discounts get, but the discounts themselves.
Their existence encourages students to spend their leftover loan and scholarship money on non-essentials, then once the diplomas are distributed, provides no help once they graduate into an intern economy. Is the expectation that all graduates have nailed down an analyst position at an investment bank or that their parents are willing to supply their leisure activities, travel and wardrobe for the next few years? Because my journalism salary certainly can't afford it.
In many European countries, an "Under 26" rule is implemented with European Youth Cards allowing EU citizens to receive discounts for train rides, food, shopping or even free entry to museums, historical sites and galleries. It seems like they get it; why don't we?
Let me clarify: I understand all these items and experiences to be luxuries. But as a college student I personally found a higher purpose for a J.Crew button-down than the vodka handles, "drunchies" and morning-after cab rides many of my fellow students opted to spend their money on. And with a generation so self-interested and product-obsessed, and an economy so consumer-driven, people's priorities and methods of spending money seem to have shifted.
My main concern is why the student discount suddenly comes to a halt and why the European-style discount card hasn't made its way to the States. A recent survey by Citi and Seventeen magazine revealed that 95 percent of students are capitalizing on student discounts to cut costs, and you could bet that percentage wouldn't budge if there was a "Under 26" offer available as well.
When I picked my major, it wasn't the one with the highest earning potential. On my first day of journalism class, my professor began his lecture by stating: "If you're looking to make a lot of money, drop this class change your major immediately." But I, who lucked out with parents wanting me to pursue my dreams, remained in that class and the subsequent four years of classes thereafter. And then was shooed off the stage with my diploma into an intern-driven post-grad world.
My logic is this: the discount would be beneficial to all parties. It would bring in 20-somethings who may not have considered spending their money at a certain venue, benefiting the vendors, and those 20-somethings would feel their discounted purchases are validated. And for those unwilling to spend their remaining paycheck? This fictional cost reduction wouldn't even affect them.
Without the discount, I'll be tempted to form the "3" from the "June 2013" on my college ID card into an "8." But really, is 10 percent off truly too much to ask?