You may not believe me, but it’s entirely coincidental that I’m writing this the day after Valentine’s day. This celebration of romance is no harder for me than any other day – not least because of the cynicism of so many of my couple-friends towards what seems generally to be perceived as a desperate attempt by the card, chocolate and gift companies to squeeze some business out of the post-Christmas slump.
Hallmark holidays for couples notwithstanding, though, singles are the last remaining group against whom it is entirely acceptable to discriminate publicly in the western world. Think about it: single-room supplements are still common in hotels and on holidays, restaurants and cinemas offer ‘2 for 1’ or ‘Buy one get one half-price’ deals, and some rail companies give discounts if two or four people travel together.
It’s not just hard for singles to benefit from these deals, it means every flyer through the door or advert splashed outside a restaurant can be a painful reminder for many of their single status (and think of those who have recently been bereaved or suffered a painful break-up).
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we’re being persecuted – or even significantly inconvenienced. Nor am I saying this is something which should be challenged in law – the deals are available to pairs of friends as well as actual couples, and apart from the ‘hotels and holidays’ one you could actually, if you put your mind to it, identify total strangers who are also dining, film-watching or museum-visiting alone and share the deal with them.
My point is, in an era where singleness is no longer a cause for shame and where the culture and safety-levels are such that going out alone is perfectly acceptable, companies that cater for lone customers might actually find they benefit more than they do from couples.
– If a cinema allows me to buy two tickets for the price of one but use the second on a different day for a different film, chances are I’m going to spend more on popcorn/drinks/snacks at the second one because I won’t feel like I’ve already spent a fortune in the cinema. Plus, I’ll then see trailers for other films I want to see and will come back again sooner than I otherwise might have.
– If a restaurant gives me a main meal at 50% off if I dine alone, I’m more likely to splash out on a drink and/or dessert. And even with dessert I’m likely to be finished more quickly than the couples and parties who are chatting, laughing and generally taking time over their meals, leaving my table free for another customer.
– A museum letting me in at a discounted rate will also feel the advantage of my good will and full pockets when I get to the cafe and gift shop.
So come on, businesses, end this discrimination against singles and start giving us special deals along with all those couples out there. You’ll earn our gratitude and our loyalty, and I’m sure will get more business in the long run.
I’m sure there are some places which are already good at this, so please let me know in the comments who you’ve seen offer great services for loners. I don’t know what the opposite of ‘name and shame’ is (name and fame?!), but let’s do it!