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    To AARP Or Not To AARP?


Are you over 40? Do you have mail delivery at your home? Then chances are you, too, are buried under a blizzard of letters begging you to join AARP.

You know, the world’s most persistent organization, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons. But now it just goes by its initials.

Like KFC. 

Membership is open to everyone over 50, which is crazy. Who retires at 50? Or 60, for that matter?

Worse, AARP starts launching these solicitations at future geezers decades before they reach the half-century mark.

I get at least one a week. Seems the longer you hold out, the more mail you receive. 

For many years, I scrawled “Privatize Social Security” or “Tax Polident” on the unopened envelopes before dropping them back in the mailbox.

Others must have been doing the same because AARP recently started sending their mail in plain white envelopes. Sneaky. I’ve been tricked into opening scores of them.

Countless times, when registering at a hotel, I’ve been asked if I belonged to AARP. The desk clerk always hints that if I was a member of that magical group I’d be offered deep discounts that aren’t available to non-members. And young people.

Still, I resisted.

Then this happened:

I booked a quick trip to Florida for next week - Disney World - with my daughter and granddaughter. We were seduced by $29 fares to Orlando on Frontier Airlines. That, and a fistful of musty Disney tickets my dad gave me in the 1990s, back when those passes never expired. 

Cheap airfare. A couple of free days in the park.

So far, so good.

Then I started looking for a place to stay.

I naively began with hotels IN the park and immediately found a great deal for the storied Grand Floridian: $750.

A night.

Have I mentioned I’m unemployed? 

I quickly realized we’d have to stay elsewhere in Orlando. After an hour on the internet I found a pleasant-looking place not far from Disney World with free shuttles to the park for $129 a night.

Of course, when I phoned to make a reservation the first thing the clerk asked was the inevitable: “Do you belong to AARP?”

She sighed and expressed regret when I said I didn’t.

What sort of savings was I missing, I wondered after I reserved a room and hung up. 

That’s when I did the unthinkable: I went online and joined the loathsome AARP for $12 a year. 

I’ll save that on one night in Florida, I told myself.

First thing the next morning I called the hotel again and told the reservations agent that I was a proud member of AARP. 

“What’s my room rate now?” I asked eagerly.

“Let’s see,” the clerk replied, clicking around on her computer. “That’ll be $144 a night.”  

Yep, 15 bucks more than if I wasn’t an AARPer.

That’s when it hit me. Most AARP members ask for their special rate when making reservations and assume it’s the best deal. In fact, they may be paying MORE than the schlumps who religiously trash those annoying solicitations. Or send them back with snarky messages.

Looks like I’ve been duped AND I’m out 12 bucks.

Worse, I’m about to get even more mail. And a monthly magazine that’s probably stuffed with ads for hearing aids and reverse mortgages.

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