Recently, I was waiting in line at a hot dog cart out on a busy street in Casco Antiguo. An elderly bearded guy in a safari hat complete with neck flap, someone who might be characterized as an “old gringo,” demanded a “jubilado” (pensioner’s) discount on his $1.25 hot dog. When the operator balked, the indignant expat pulled out his cedula and stuck it in the vendor’s face. All the while, a flock of birds, representing one of the over 150 species that inhabit the isthmus, chirped “Cheap, cheap, cheap!” from a nearby tree. Red-faced with anger, the aged foreign retiree stormed off without a frankfurter. By the time it was ol’Jack’s turn to purchase a wiener at the exorbitant price of $1.50, I felt obligated to give the guy two bucks with a show-offy “keep the change.”
The so-called “jubilado” discounts are on every list of incentives to retire to this paradise also known as Panama. It seems like a real perk. For example, the discount of 25% applies to airline tickets, which has enabled my lovely wife and I to afford some trips we might not have otherwise taken. Ol’Jack has always enjoyed the term because it reminds him of jubilation, the emotion that geriatrics apparently feel when they get a deal on their dinner.
It is the law, and yet some patrons of eating establishments treat the discount as a birthright even though they’ve only been in the country for a couple of years. They get a hostile, aggressive look on their hungry faces, even after they realize that they’ve forgotten their Panamanian residency cards at home.
One popular grill out in Coronado had encountered so many arguments with irate retirees struggling to go out to dinner on fixed incomes that the management ended up posting informational signs on each and every table explaining, among other stipulations, that “the government of Panama does not reimburse our establishment the generous discount of 25% given to each jubilado.”
Other points that some of the big spenders are willing to argue include:
- “This benefit is non-transferable and cannot be applied to the whole bill, even if the jubilado is the one paying.” Good try, picking up the check. “I’ll get this” soon segues into everybody paying up in the parking lot afterwards.
- “The benefit is for the acquisition of a main-course meal and doesn’t include drinks.” Okay, that can still be a sufficient savings. However…
- “If the beneficiary only acquires an appetizer or a dessert, or a cold or hot drink, the establishment is not obligated to give the discount.” That might seem fair to the restauranteur, who is already losing money, but this too often becomes a point of contention with some codgers who aren’t planning on more than a 10% tip either. (If that.)
This law/benefit does not cover “fondas” (the inexpensive, cafeteria-style eateries) either, or little old ladies sitting on a folding chair on the sidewalk selling candy and gum.
If the jubilado/pensionado discount is why you came to Panama, then maybe you should have read the complete law first; or you can eat at home and fuss at your spouse instead.