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.

birthday marketing

“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.”

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!

Texas School Stops Birthday Swats

Even decades later I remember the birthday “paddy whacks” we would dole out on the schoolyard at recess. When we were little it was cause for hilarity. When we were just beginning to “like” boys or girls it was an awkward/embarrassing excuse for a group of one sex to grab hold of one of the opposite sex (single sex liking was not socially accepted on schoolyards then, sorry).

Then, there would be lots of teasing and laughing while someone was put through the mill of whacks — imagine a line up of kids swatting the birthday kid scrambling as quick as possible past their “friends.” But even if I put quotes around friends, because it wasn’t always your closest buddies doing this, it was always your classmates. Peers. People of your own age. 

Principal Paddy Whacks

In Texas, an elementary school recently made the news after parents complained about a principal’s practice of offering birthday spankings “along with a birthday/special day pencil and a piece of candy.”

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Texas Elementary School

The principal said in a letter home to parents that no more than five pupils had requested “something other than the birthday swat” over her past eight years. Plus, she said that the spankings were on camera and there were “always other adults in the office celebrating with us all.” (UHM, them being on camera helps her case how?).

Students who rejected the spanking had the option of a birthday hug or high five. Yet now, based on a few parent complaints, the practice has been cancelled in favor of the hug or high five options only.

In one report of parent reactions, “one said it was done in a playful manner, while another said it was a fun tradition and her kids ‘always look forward to it’.” 

A NY Daily News report quoted parent Jessica Moore telling a local TV station, ”If it was a big deal to the kid, they would’ve brought it up way before now.”

Parent Heather Redder suggested the distress was due to a lack of understanding. “They’re not used to a small community,” she explained. “And that’s what we are. People that move here from the big city, they don’t realize, and they’re not used to this.”

Mine was not a small community, but in Canada and Britain the paddy whacks are admittedly more common. Still, even being the nerd I was throughout all my schooling, I can’t imagine having the principal swatting my bottom being something I would enjoy on my birthday. In my world you tried to steer clear of the principal at all costs! Admittedly, I probably would have been pretty excited about that special day pencil though.

Matching your Birthday Month to Your Enthusiasm Level

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Image source

If your birthday is this month, according to a writer for Sweety High, you “always anticipate” your birthday “will be as awesome as [you’ve] imagined.” After all, you’re one of the “optimistic May babies” who can “seize the opportunity to celebrate outside and take advantage of the great weather.” Even if the weather isn’t so great, you’ll  “tend to look on the bright side of things.”

Of course, this article has absolutely no sourcing, so it could all be the opinion of Amanda Pillon, the writer for Sweety High (yes, that really is the site’s name). But who doesn’t love a good birthday personality predictor?

Checking out her view of October birthdays, I did not see myself in the first half of the description about loving Halloween and turning my party into a costume party. Yet, I could agree with the second half at least:

“…they wouldnt change their birth month for the world. The timing also means that fall is back in full swing, meaning the weather is cool, the style is fashionable and the candy is abundant.”

Birthday Personality

My son is February, so I checked his description next. But it was all about people having given up their New Year’s resolutions and being able to eat cake with him and looking forward to spring. This one was definitely not written for a 10-year-old boy.

On to December, for my husband who has to deal with a holiday week birthday, and would definitely agree with the statement: “they really wish they could be any other time of year.” After all, Pillon tells us, “because of all of the holiday commotion, people are either forgetting your birthday altogether, or lumping your holiday presents in with the birthday ones….Youve probably considered celebrating your half-birthday in the summer, instead.”

My friend who does celebrate her half-birthday is actually an August birthday, so I read that one next. Apparently, “August babies know that it is the chillest month to have a birthday,” and “know theres tons of potential in an August birthday and that [their] job is to unlock it.”

Me, I don’t want my birthday to be a job, so I’m glad I’m not August. January didn’t sound so great to me either:

“If you were born in January, chances are that you see your big day as a mixed bag. While youre invigorated by celebrating your birthday along with a new year and new beginnings, you dont love it when people skimp on the gifts because they just bought you ones for the holiday.”

March birthdays seem a little disappointing too: “March birthdays dont always live up to the expectations you have for them…the weather absolutely cant seem to make up its mind…Plus, everyone seems distracted by tests and school, and spring break never seems to coincide with your special day.”

Birthday Spin

April gets a positive spin though as “Everyone else has a good association with your birthday, too, because they relate it to the sun shining and the flowers blooming.”

June, too, since “June birthdays mean summertime is officially here, and June babies cherish that.”

She also had high hopes for November birthdays: “everyone is getting into the holiday spirit, but pre-holiday present-buying panic hasnt set in. Your birthday gets to sit comfortably in the middle.”

A July birthday, on the other hand, “means freedom. Youll never have to worry about being in school for your birthday, and you can essentially transform your big day into a summer-long celebration all about you.”

Now, the summer-long celebration part sounds appealing, but I think the line that most appealed to me came in September’s description.

Although it is the most popular month to be born, there’s the upside of having “the first birthday of the school year (which is also the most exciting birthday all year).” And, the part I liked best, “everyone is eager to get back into celebration mode, so they jump at the opportunity to make yours a great birthday. You love being a star for a day.”

Why, yes, I do love being the star — only in October. See you then!

Celebrity Birthday Greetings

As a huge Alias fan, I’ve always really admired Jennifer Garner. Where others might say they could see themselves being friends with Jennifer Aniston, my imaginary celeb best friend would be Garner.

Her birthday shoutout to Reese Witherspoon earlier this year only clinched it for me:
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Witherspoon and Garner are long-time “gal-pals” (man, I hate that phrase, but I would be Jennifer’s gal-pal if she’d have me!). Witherspoon sent a birthday greeting of for Garner’s birthday too:

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Of course, this tells me that Garner spells her name with just one “n,” which is a bit disappointing to this two-n Jenn, but I can accept it. We don’t have to be the same people, after all…

Nonetheless, I love what says about friendship and birthdays. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor, famous or not you are (and your friends are), you still want to celebrate birthdays and let friends and family know they are loved.