June 3, 2018

Fair Offer or Discrimination

This afternoon, I saw a Ford advertisement during a baseball game whose narration included:
Ford thanks those who go further for all of us. First responders, all military personnel, veterans, and retirees can now get $750 appreciation cash on top of current offers, all from Ford, America’s best-selling brand.
The video included scenes of military and firefighters in action.
Ford logo

I suspect that most viewers respond positively to this ad, which seems to offer significant benefits to those who serve their community, often at great personal sacrifice.

My first thought, however, was whether such a discount is really fair. Why should an accountant or a grocery clerk have to pay $750 more for an automobile than a former Army bandsman like myself? Isn’t such a policy discriminatory?

What if, instead of Ford’s current policy, the company’s appreciation was for, say, white people:
Ford thanks all the white people who have helped make America a great country over these many years. All white people can now get $750 appreciation credit on top of current offers, all from Ford, America’s best-selling brand.
Ford’s offer seems less benign now, doesn’t it?

Auto dealers offer special deals to customers all the time, of course. These offers usually either apply to everyone—“shop our Memorial Day sale”—or apply to customers in particular automobile-related circumstances—“available to current Ford leaseholders.” The current Ford offer, however, applies to people that the company views as especially virtuous, irrespective of their relationship to anything automotive.

Honestly, I have sometimes benefited from small discounts for being a veteran and have not thought much about it. The Ford benefit (or discriminative pricing) seems extreme, however. If it is acceptable, why is it not acceptable to favor white customers, straight customers, young customers, or Republican customers?

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