By Kirby Van Amburgh
Pretending it’s your birthday when it’s not, a hilarious thrill usually restricted to middle school students, is actually something you can do at any age. Getting a free brownie sundae never gets old. However, fake-birthday benefits are harder to come by as an adult in 2012 than they were as a preteen in the 20th century.
Photo courtesy of Jayneandd.
I pretended it was my birthday last Saturday and spent the entire day trying to entertain myself on a $0 budget. Unfortunately, the results were unsuccessful and generally embarrassing.
My early morning stop was Starbucks, where I heard a rumor that people received free drinks on their birthdays. When I ordered my coffee and informed the barista that it was my birthday, she smiled and replied, “Happy birthday! I just need your coupon and I’ll get that started for you.”
Evidently, corporations have safeguards against rampant lying. After stammering that I had to get the coupon that “I left in my car,” I went to the fair-trade independent coffee shop down the street, explained that it was my birthday, received a smile and a “Happy birthday,” then paid full price for a $5 cup of organic dark roast.
That morning’s experience illuminated my first important lesson of the modern unbirthday experience: franchises are more likely to offer free birthday goods, but they almost always require an online registration of some sort. Sizzler offers a free meal on your birthday; Benihana gives a $30 certificate; Ruby Tuesday provides a free handcrafted burger of the birthday diner’s choice—all after signing up online, that is.
For people with real birthdays, online customer clubs have enhanced the overall quality of free perks over the years.
For a liar like me, the online registration requirements limited my options for the day. After realizing that I wouldn’t get far at chain stores or most local shops, I decided to prey on the kindness of individuals.
I had previously witnessed others receiving free Richard Simmons birthday doll necklaces during Saturday morning aerobics classes at Slimmons Studio in Beverly Hills. There were no coupons or ID confirmations involved, so I made plans to attend.
After an hour of sweaty dancing, Simmons asked people with birthdays to come to the front of the gym. After giving him a fake name and receiving my birthday hug and necklace, I felt horrible. Richard Simmons is an exceptionally nice person. The reason they don’t have coupons or ID checks is because only shameless individuals would deceive him. Also, at the end of class, he gave an inspirational speech about being true to yourself, which is always good to hear when you’re spinning a web of lies.
For dinner, a few friends and I went to Luna Park, a chic Los Angeles restaurant known for its creative cocktails, gourmet macaroni and cheese, and make-your-own s’mores. Although not a chain, it seems like the kind of fun place that might offer free goodies. After my friends pulled the waiter aside to tell him that it was my birthday, he explained that there were no free menu items available.
This should have come as no surprise, as Luna Park is a contemporary independent restaurant and not a Sizzler’s.
“Unless it’s at a franchise, I think giving free things away on people’s birthdays is a little outdated,” said George Cortez, who works at a West Hollywood restaurant and bar known for attracting an industry-heavy crowd. “We provide candles on desserts that people pay for or bring themselves, but the servers don’t sing or anything. People don’t expect us to, and it’s kind of a nineties thing, honestly.”
My last option was to just try to attract attention at a bar. My friends and I picked up some Happy Birthday balloons, headed to Public House in Los Feliz, and waited for something to happen. We didn’t even try to get free drinks out of the bartender, as she saw all of our IDs as soon as we ordered.
After about an hour, two guys came over to bring me a pint of seemingly harmless beer, which may have been nice in theory; but everyone knows not to accept drinks from strangers. I politely excused myself to the restroom, where I texted my friends to abort Mission Not-Really-My-Birthday and meet me outside in two minutes.
Maybe it was less difficult to get things for free pre-internet, or maybe lying was just easier when I was younger, but at any rate, convincing people to give me free gifts on my fake birthday was a challenge.
My advice to anyone who is considering a similar undertaking would be to forget it and spend your time signing up for all the chain restaurants’ online birthday clubs instead; with a little proper planning you can still reap the rewards of faking your birthday.