Birthday Bear Marketing Mayhem

When I was younger, I was a teddy bear collector. I loved plush bears, but all sorts of accessories with bears on them too. So, I probably would have lost my mind over Build-a-Bear’s “Pay Your Age” promotion — if I’d lived somewhere with the store.

Apparently, I would not have been the only person ready to lose their mind over the marketing ploy. Hundreds of people got in line to take advantage of the sale. Thousands of people received vouchers inviting them to purchase their toy another time. The company’s original July 12 event was so popular they had to call it off.

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“Based on the unprecedented response to our Pay Your Age Day event in our early opening stores, we are experiencing significantly longer than expected lines and large crowds. Local authorities are requiring us to limit the lines and crowds due to safety concerns,” the company stated.

Build-a-Bear stores, usually found in malls but also at tourist attractions in North America and Great Britain, let kids (and kids at heart) create a stuffed animal from scratch. The stuffed toys are not cheap — typically running $20 or more when you add in accessories. So people were excited over the idea of even kids as young as one-year-old being able to get in on the deal.

Build-a-Bear CEO’s Sharon Price John even ended up TODAY doing damage control. “We did see it wind up in social (media), and we did put a notice out for people that we thought the lines could be long, and we worked with the malls, but it was beyond anything we could’ve ever imagined.”

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Birthday Marketing Mayhem

In bringing back the promotion, the company has linked the idea more effectively to birthdays. On your birthday, you can “pay your age” to get a Birthday Treat Bear. The smiling brown bear, which normally costs $14, is available through the new “Count Your Candles” program. 

The kerfuffle was meant to launch the new Birthday Treat Bear, the CEO said. “Because up to one-third of our sales are actually associated with kids’ birthdays. It’s their most special day.

With the new iteration of the promotion, Build-a-Bear joins a long line of retailers marketing birthday-related deals. Based on a blog last month, though, in which a guy wrote to Ms. Manners to complain about embarrassing birthday attention — only ask about the birthday deal if you’re ready for a serenade or having someone else pick your dessert.

 

Two Birthdays = Big Wins

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I’ve written before about two birthdays as if it was unique. At least this year’s earlier blog about a baby actually being born twice remains distinct. But, I am learning it’s not as uncommon as I’d thought for a clerical error to give someone two special days. Nevertheless, I can’t resist this story about a 79-year-old Maryland man playing both his birth dates in the lottery and winning 1.9 million.

It’s like a trifecta — two birthdays and a nearly $2 million lottery win? That’s Uber-lucky!

The man, whose name was not released in the news report I saw, was born in Louisiana on April 21. But, it was recorded as April 23, and not officially corrected until recently.

When buying a Multi-Match ticket recently the man played his lucky numbers (based on his two birthdays) and scored the jackpot in the Maryland Lottery’s May 7 drawing.

“I was scanning the newspaper and flipped to the lottery section first, and when I saw the numbers my eyes just grew bigger and bigger,” the man said.

The winner quickly called his wife. “When I told her how much we had won, at first she didn’t believe me!” he said.

The man planned to enlist the help of a financial adviser and use some of the windfall to pay off their bills and donate to their church.

Another Birthday Lottery Win

At the same time, I also came across a young woman who hit the jackpot purchasing her first ever lottery ticket to celebrate her 18th birthday.

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Charlie Lagarde purchased the scratch ticket alongside a bottle of champagne (18 is the legal drinking age in Quebec, Canada). Given the choice of $1 million Canadian as a lump sum or $1,000 a week for the rest of her life, the 18-year-old decided on the weekly allowance.

“It’s without taxes so it’s equivalent to a salary of more than $100,000 a year, so it’s a great start in life for that young lady,” Patrice Lavoie, a spokesman for the lottery corporation, told the Canadian Press news agency.

The teen plans to invest in her education and travel. She said, “I want to study photography. One of my dreams would be to work for National Geographic.”

No word on what numbers she played, but seems safe to say her birthday was a lucky one.

Military Keep Mum on Birthdays

 I know little about military culture, so I was interested to read recently a We Are the Mighty blog offering several reasons troops don’t tell others its their birthday. The reasons definitely reinforce my idea that being part of a military unit can be a lot like having several unruly siblings.

The first reason to avoid sharing your special day? “Your gift is embarrassment.” U.S. Army veteran Eric Milzarski, who was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division as a radio operator, tells us that the company might sing to you but only with the intention of making you feel awkward and embarrassed.

Second, the surprise party in the training room is highly unlikely. Instead military personnel will be expected to do push-ups for every year they’ve lived.

While, this might ruin many civilians for the rest of their birthdays, the veteran author tells us “It’s in good fun though and they’re almost always done with a grin.” Even when extras are added on: “One more for the unit! One more for the First Sergeant!”

Ultimately, things need to keep on keeping on. So amidst the pranks and awkwardness, the attitude is primarily: “Cool. You’re older. Now get back to work.”

Restaurant Birthday Etiquette

I read with some surprise recently a Miss Manners entitled: “I can’t believe they did this on my birthday.” The person who wrote into the syndicated columnist was “appalled” by the restaurant offering him a “large dessert of the restaurant’s choosing with a showy sparkler stuck into it.”

He and his wife had gone to a restaurant on his birthday. “A sign at the door advertised a special reward when paying the bill if you were dining on your birthday.” He mentioned his birthday to the waitress and was then “hugely embarrassed” when she arrived at the table with a dessert he could not share with his wife (she didn’t like it). Plus, “now everybody in the restaurant knew it was my birthday.”

He wrote, “I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the waitress, so I feigned delight and ate the dessert. I really wanted to share a dessert with my wife, but because of the actions of the waitress, I was cheated out of this opportunity and I’m not very happy about it.”

He wrote to Miss Manners wondering how he should have handled this better.

The Mannered Response

She suggests that the restaurant did not do a good job of tailoring its service to its customer need. She even argues, “A more astute wait-person would indeed have noticed that you had not ordered your dinner from the children’s menu, and may have been able to adjust the reward accordingly.” There’s also a joke about a free pony ride.

Still, unless you have never eaten out in a restaurant before, how could you not expect there would be a dessert and some sort of hoopla. At least it wasn’t one of the restaurants where all the waitstaff available are pressed into service serenading the guest.

This man asked for the “reward.” What else could he have been expecting? A discount would be my guess. Yet restaurant after restaurant has made a sparkler or candle in a slice of cake, often with a song, the go-to response to birthdays. The cake is free. That’s the discount. But the price you pay is not getting to choose the dessert they serve.

I also to share my umbrage that Miss Manners equates this birthday “reward” with the kid’s menu. If you don’t want to be feted in public, don’t tell the waitstaff of a public restaurant it’s your birthday. Otherwise, don’t infantilize those who enjoy a little birthday pomp and circumstance on their special day — regardless of their age.

One last thing, imagine how chagrined these correspondents would have been to get the birthday surprise at this restaurant near my house. It’s really a showy sparkler!

birthday sparkler

 

Birthday Dictatorship — The Gift Registry

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Foter.com

Good Morning America recently asked its loyal Facebook fans to weigh in on whether or not “it’s ever OK for parents to request gift cards or create registries for their kids when hosting a birthday party.”

Kids, of course, would love this. My own son would be at Target with his portable scanner beep-booping over Magic cards, phone supplies, video games…and then he’d want to go do the same at Dick’s Sporting Goods too.

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One parent, a mother of 5, was onboard. “[A] gift card allows the kids to pick out their own stuff and also shows them money sense,” she wrote. “They know how much they have to spend and they can spend up to that amount, or use their money and add to it if what they want costs more. Gift cards are a godsend if u [sic] ask me.”

Plus, she has five kids. Think of all the junk that would otherwise fill up her house after a birthday party!

Another respondent, though, made an equally good point: “A child should learn that any gift is OK…It’s the thought that counts. Too many spoiled entitled kids today.”

GMA asked an etiquette expert too. Elaine Swann said, “The bringing of gifts is a gesture of goodwill and when we start to set standards and ask for gifts in this particular instance, I think it’s setting the wrong precedence in terms of entitlement.”

A Generous Alternative

One of the respondents suggested what has become my favorite alternative to birthday gifts — giving to charity instead. I am happy to report it is becoming increasingly common for me to see a news story about a young person:

  • Doing a pet food donation drive
  • Sking for donations to a charitable organization in lieu of gifts
  • Donating their presents to a homeless shelter or Ronald McDonald house.
  • Getting people together for a birthday party where they make sandwiches for a homeless shelter.

Young people are using their birthdays as an opportunity to do acts of generosity for others!

I was able to get my son to take this approach for a few years, but then he got older and realized his friends were getting gifts, and he wanted the same thing. I suggest the alternative each year, but I’m not going to foist it upon him.

In the meantime, I’ve become one of those Moms who provides a gift card instead of a present. Yet, I won’t be allowing my child to openly ask for cash or register for gifts any time soon.

 

 

 

Baby Born Twice is Promised Two Birthday Cakes

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Photo by amanky on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

There are two other times I’ve had the opportunity to write about someone with more than one birthday. One’s the Queen, another was an administrative glitch. This one is actually a baby born twice. Yes, you read that correctly!

The 19-week ultrasound for Mom-to-be Joni Reinkemeyer determined her unborn baby had developed spina bifida, a birth defect where the spinal cord doesn’t develop properly. Her doctor suggested an operation to close the gap in the baby spine.

That operation meant “delivering” the baby, operating on it, and then returning it to the womb to complete the rest of the pregnancy—hence being “born twice.” According to Reinkemeyer’s doctor, Dr. Michale Bebbington, in Today’s Parent, this kind of surgery has only been done “a few hundred times worldwide,” and only “about one in five of those who are referred for evaluation will be eligible and willing to undergo surgery.” 

At the end of the second trimester in October 2017, 32 people were in the operating room to assist with the rare surgery. This included duplicates of each staff role — two neurosurgeons and the whole NICU team, — to ensure a safe procedure.  

The baby, named Jackson, was then born again in 2018. He’s doing fine. Mom says he’ll also get to celebrate both birth days.

“Seeing that he was born twice, I think we can allow him two cakes,” Reinkemeyer said.

Wonder how any siblings will take it? If they stick to an extra cake, I could see it going over well — more cake for everyone. But two parties and twice the presents might be a bit too much.

I can tell you if I was a Mom with a kid who was friends with Jackson, I’d only want to be called upon to give a gift once a year! But, I’d probably be more than happy to show up twice for parties — especially once they got to that age when I could drop off the kiddos and get a few hours of quiet on my own!

Zoo Animal Birthdays – Let Them Eat Cake

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Even animals get to celebrate birthdays! The Denver Zoo recently celebrated two birthdays. In the orangutan habitat, the keepers decorated with pink and purple streamers and left out extra treats for Hesty, who turned 8-years-old! They posted a video on their Facebook page — doesn’t it look like she’s looking in a present here?

zoo animal birthday

There was also celebration last month for the 15th birthday of Jorge the llama. He got to share a nutritional cake with his enclosure buddies Fernando and Mahali. The cake made from biscuits, blended jicama, and other vegetables was a hit. I particularly enjoyed this photo of the llama with icing on its…uhm, I’m guessing it’s a muzzle? It reminds me of kid smash cakes.

In Oklahoma, Cindy the chimpanzee celebrated 50 years with streamers too. As well, as a picnic-themed animal enrichment activity and new blankets. 

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Another old fogey getting a special treat was Tricia the Asian elephant who enjoyed a fruit cake on her 61s birthday in Perth.

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Fellow 61-year-old Fatou also enjoyed a cake for her special day at the Berlin Zoo. Her cake of fruit, rice, and quark (a creamy, dairy substance popular in Germany) was gobbled up quickly. She’s one of the world’s oldest gorillas, sharing the title with an Arkansas gorilla, so it was a pretty big deal.

Germany: World's Oldest Gorilla Turns 61

Back in the States again, in Naples, Florida, a one-year-old panther named Athena was treated to a large pink, decorated papier-mâché birthday cake. Visitors were also invited to make birthday cards which would be displayed around her enclosure. 

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Another cute one-year-old is Jackie, a red panda at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. The video online just shows the panda moving about its space where there were birthday cards, but nevertheless it had 23K views in just two weeks. 

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Bet, you can now figure out why I did another animal birthday-themed blog. Plus, it’s fun to research and the images are so cute!