Can you charge different membership fees based soley on age?
January 30, 2013 7:52 AM   Subscribe

A new private restaurant/club is opening in my Santa Monica, CA neighborhood. Membership fees are $1250/yr if you are under 30, $2000/yr if you are over 30. There is no justification stated for this policy, like the way auto insurance rates justify their age-based rates. Is this legal?

This has been mentioned both in print and on-line but the legality of it has not been addressed. (I get why they think this is a good idea.) FWIW, I have no interest in joining this club.
posted by Room 641-A to Law & Government (14 answers total)
What has been pointed out to me in the past is that Senior Citizen discounts similarly are not explicitly justified, so it seems like this sort of age discrimination is actually legal. Though I'd love to hear a lawyer comment on it.
posted by XMLicious at 7:59 AM on January 30, 2013

Yes, it's legal. Age-related discrimination is prohibited for things like employment and housing, not private discretionary purchases. This is just an example of price discrimination, which is incredibly common.
posted by payoto at 8:00 AM on January 30, 2013 [5 favorites]

If it's a private club, they can do whatever the want. I assume it has something to do with presumed income.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:01 AM on January 30, 2013

I am confident the club is sufficiently private to survive a Roberts v. Jaycees challenge. IAAL.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:01 AM on January 30, 2013

It's the same thing as having different prices for movie tickets, theme parks, restaurants, museums, etc. based on age, or discounts with student ID or AAA, except that it's on a very pricey item.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:06 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's the rule, not the exception, for country clubs, yacht clubs, etc., to have a lower initiation rate (and sometimes even annual dues) for people who join when they're younger.
posted by MattD at 8:21 AM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Age is not generally a protected category in the context of US civil rights law. Age discrimination is generally only illegal in very precise circumstances, and those almost always involve discrimination (1) against a person over 65 and (2) in the employment context.

I can't think of any reason why the club, a private actor which is soliciting members, not an employer looking for employees, would not be able to do this.
posted by valkyryn at 8:22 AM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

There is no justification stated for this policy

The commercial reasoning for this is to encourage younger members to join, obviously, the idea being that younger members are good for the culture of the club (i.e. keeping it lively), good for business (i.e. they use the bar) and most importantly are future members of the club, assuming they keep renewing their membership. But yes, it is done chiefly because younger people are presumed to have less disposable income and at the very young end because older kids come off the family membership.

I know of a serviceman's club in the UK whose approach is brilliantly simple: your club membership is a day's pay (feasible to work because military pay scales are knowns).
posted by MuffinMan at 8:28 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Respectfully disagree with Valkyryn here (partially). Age is covered in anti-discrimination law, but the protected class is people over 40, and as Valkyryn says it only applies to employment discrimination.
And yes, this isn't employment so it wouldn't apply.
posted by cushie at 8:36 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera both offer discounted subscriptions for people under 30, because that's the age when people are discovering new things, and because both institutions are suffering terribly from an aging of their subscriber base. If you don't bring in new younger members, your institution will eventually die off; if younger members balk at higher prices, then you need to bring them in at a lower price.
posted by KathrynT at 9:04 AM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ah, this all makes sense. I was getting a "Ladies Night" vibe from this, but of course all the age-related examples here make the issue seem pretty obvious now. Thanks all!
posted by Room 641-A at 9:42 AM on January 30, 2013

Just wanted to add that this is also how university clubs (private clubs for alumni, I mean) do it as well. The Harvard Club, for example, is super granular in charging less the younger you are.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:46 AM on January 30, 2013

I belong to two different social groups that do something similar: both have standard everybody-pays-the-same single-year annual membership rates, but "lifetime" membership rates vary by age group. Amusingly enough, their elevators go in opposite directions: with one, the youngest members pay more for the lifetime memberships and the oldest pay the least; in the other group, the oldest members pay the most and the youngest pay the least.
posted by easily confused at 12:37 PM on January 30, 2013

I'm sure Shoreditch House in London has this policy, and I presumed it's because, given it's a private members club which is set up for networking, people under 30 tend to be less established in their careers and finances.
posted by mippy at 1:45 PM on January 30, 2013

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