The Strangest Price Discrimination You’ll Ever See?

Adriano Dutra Teixeira, a Brazilian economist, sent us this photo from a restaurant. As he translates:

“Social Responsibility: 50% discount on meal for clients over 70 or bariatric surgery (stomach reduction).”

He adds:

I thought it was hilarious! So I wrote a blog post with a microeconomic approach to the promotion, using price discrimination.

I had to chuckle, in part because we’re finishing up a podcast about commitment devices, in which Levitt offers some bizarre alternatives to bariatric surgery (which we wrote about here), since it is such a drastic commitment.

Further thoughts:

  • I wonder what proof, if any, the restaurant requires to prove bariatric surgery — a doctor’s note? a receipt? a visual scar? And how will people game the system?
  • Who tends to eat less: the median 70-year-old or the median bariatric patient? And especially: what do they each eat less of? Since the restaurant is offering such a hefty discount, I’d  assume it’s meat or some other high-cost food.
  • I can understand why the restaurant touts its “social responsibility” for feeding 70-year-olds at a discount, but what is the social responsibility factor of the bariatric discount? On the other hand, I guess you can’t just put up a sign that says “half off for the people we suspect won’t eat very much.” (FWIW, Brazil is getting pretty obese.)
  • Does a 70-plus person who also had bariatric surgery eat for free?


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  1. James says:

    It also seems to ignore the fiscal realities of the restaurant business (at least as I understand them), which is that the cost of raw materials is a small fraction of the price of a meal.

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  2. Katie Cunningham says:

    Doctor’s note, actually.

    A friend of the family got one, and was given a card that allowed her to purchase meals off of the children’s menus. She never used it, being too embarrassed to admit she had gotten the surgery, save for one time. It was a buffet that was outrageously expensive, so that time, she pulled out the card. The waiter didn’t even blink, and charged her the children’s price.

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    • Kiaser Zohsay says:

      It has been several years ago, but I once saw a woman with her family at a buffet restaurant pull out a similar card. Rather than getting the children’s price, she was getting a take out box (which is priced by weight) even though she going to sit at a table with the rest of her party.

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  3. Érica says:

    I am Brazilian and I can help you. This is a steakhouse. An all-you-can-eat one.
    Odd discoung as you said…

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  4. Gangstead says:

    I think a 70+ bariatric surgery person eats for 25% (the discounts multiply, but don’t stack)

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  5. Érica says:

    Oh, I am going to write them and ask what kind of proof they want. As soon as they reply I will tell you, if they reply someday.

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  6. Matt says:

    If it’s a prixe fixe restaurant, which many Churrascaria are, you could posture that those who have had stomach reduction will eat significantly less… or at least will eliminate the risk that they will consume more than their paid share.
    Sure, it’s strange to see in print, but there is a logic.

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  7. polk says:

    A 70-plus person who also had bariatric surgery would surely qualify for a 75% discount? or maybe only 25 %… I have to think about that.

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  8. Amber says:

    My dad had bariatric surgery and he was given a little card to show at restaurants. Most restaurants honored it either through discounts or letting him order off the kid’s menu or order lunch portions (even for dinner, when they would otherwise be charging more even for lunch portions).

    I think psychologically it was helpful for him, because there are many people (him included) that force themselves to finish a meal instead of letting part of it go to waste. I think by paying a discounted cost and receiving smaller portions (kids’/lunch), he felt less inclined to have to “clean his plate.”

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    • Tim says:

      One word: Leftovers!

      If I order food at a restaurant, I’m getting a minimum of 2, and often times 3, meals out of it. Restaurants give WAY too much food to be eaten in one sitting.

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