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

birthday wish list

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.

birthday wish list

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.

 

 

 

Stranger Makes Birthday Surprise Complete

Birthdays can bring out the best in people. Not always in the person actually celebrating the birthday — she can get a bit demanding (she writes while pointing to herself). But other people often really step up to help someone celebrate a birthday and feel loved. That is the big reason I love birthdays so much.

Here’s a great example from Canada (my native land).

Birthday surprise

A Halifax woman who wanted to surprise her mother for her birthday turned to Reddit for help. The thing was her Mom lives 4,000 kilometres away, in a tiny rural community in Manitoba, nearly four hours northwest of Winnipeg, where there aren’t any floral delivery shops.

So, Alison Hill, put a post on Reddit the night before her mother’s 71st birthday to see if anyone nearby was willing to bring her mother flowers. Within minutes someone had volunteered!

Hill ordered flowers in Dauphin, Man., about a 40-minute drive from her mom’s place, and offered to pay for the gas. But the man wouldn’t take it.

The Surprise Happens

The next day, Tia Hill was sitting in her front yard enjoying birthday wine with her husband and a few neighbors. She told the CBC she said, “If I had known we were having company, I would have baked a cake.”

Moments later, a grey truck pulled up and a man got out to ask if she was Tia. When she said she was, the man went around to the passenger side and came back with an urn full of salmon pink hibiscus and a birthday cake.

The flowers were from Alison and her three-year-old son. The carrot cake was a surprise for both women.

“A perfect stranger,” Tia Hill remarked. “She just ordered the flowers, he ordered the cake. And I was so taken aback. What a wonderful thing to do for somebody.”

Alison Hill added, “I thought that was amazing. It never even occurred to me to get her a cake — I just wanted to send her flowers!”

Tia Hill even called the florist to track the man down and thank him, but he had given a different name there than he gave on Reddit. “I don’t know who this man is, but he came with flowers and a birthday cake, so I love him to death,” Tia Hill said.

Alison Hill wrote back to thank the man too:  “He just said that I’m very welcome, and he does these things because he hopes someday someone will look out for his mom, too.”

 

Birthday Surprise for Military Son

birthday surprise

Image source

I’m a fan of creative gift-giving. My friends did a scavenger hunt for me to find my present in college, and I loved it. I have aunts who sent the same plastic figure back and forth to each other embedded in other gifts. I’ve done the big box of empty to faux disappoint a child. Plus, a lump of coal for my husband one Christmas.

So, I get the idea behind the birthday gift prank played on the boy in this MilitaryKind video I saw shared on Facebook:

 

Birthday Prank

The boy is given a big box with more boxes inside of it. At one point he opens one to find a letter, which has him in tears reading out loud how his Dad won’t be able to make it home for his birthday. So sad. Then, he keeps on opening more boxes…Finally, he hits a note that says “Surprise” and out comes Dad — home after all.

Perhaps not as surprising is the mixed reactions on Facebook. Some people thought the whole thing so sweet — Father and Son reunion after all. Others were upset about the cruel trick played on the little boy.

One wrote: “Why put the kid through the emotional trauma of the first part of this surprise by first lying to him??? Cruel.”

I appreciated this response to that perspective: “…guess all of you saying how cruel this is have never done anything to tease anyone in your lives.”

Still, the comments made me view the video again in a different light. I’ve decided taking out the letter part, where the kid’s hopes are crushed, could have had the same surprise impact and softened the blow.

What’s the cruelest/cleverest thing you’ve done to celebrate a friend’s birthday?

Fraudsters Exploit Birthdays & Best Intentions

This blog recently covered a sweet story of two girls who see themselves as “birthday twins,” despite racial differences (and the fact that their birthdays are days away from one another). Recently, though, news came out of China of a fraudulent online fundraising campaign capitalizing on the idea of a “birthday twin.”

Chinese social media users were invited to type in their birthdays to find and donate to an impoverished student, born on the same day in a rural province. This sounds like a lovely way to personalize giving….

Until the 0fenbei site was accused of fraud. Screenshots published in Modern Express, a Nanjing-based newspaper, show a photo of the same girl offered up as having two different birthdays. In one result, “A Bi,” is born on Jan. 3, 2009, in southwestern China’s Yunnan province. In another, the girl’s name is “Gui Bi,” with a birthday of Nov. 24, 2009.

Another screenshot shows that “Xiao Dan,” another girl from Yunnan, was born on Feb. 29, 2009 — a date that doesn’t exist.

birthday giving

Birthday Giving Done Right

Wang Li, 0fenbei’s founder, issued a statement apologizing for inadequate scrutiny of students’ information, explaining that the publishing process was rushed. “There are six kids whose information is wrong,” he admitted.

The campaign, in which all donations were to have gone to Ai You Future Foundation, a Shenzhen-based charity that collaborates with 0fenbei, is now closed for donations. Yet, the site claims to have already raised more than 2.5 million yuan for 2,130 students.

Shenzhen’s civil affairs bureau is currently investigating the claims of suspicious identities.

Meanwhile, let’s end this blog on a positive note with one more of the now easy to find examples of people using their birthdays to show kindness to others. Just the week of writing this I came across these examples:

My Little Man is in Double Digits

 

birthday love

The kiddo in the picture above is turning 10 today. Ten! That’s double digits. As his Mom, I can tell you it is completely shocking to me that the 8 pound, 4 ounce (yes, I had to look it up — sue me) that used to span the length from my palm to my elbow is now an energetic, creative, funny, bright and (sometimes) sweet ten-year-old.

In his first year I described him as a boy whose likes and dislikes included:

  • “I like chilling on couch with Dad. I dislike sleeping for more than three hours at a stretch”
  • “I dislike being put in my crib or being left to my own devices. I like water (once I get used to it)”
  • “I dislike getting my ears checked and eating food with texture (other than Crackers/pretzels). I like cruising the furniture and eating Cheerios.”

Bigger Version of the Same

Amazingly, he’s now just a grown version of the same baby I described in that first year. For instance, I wrote at three months, that his favorite toy was “people.” It’s pretty much true still today. Sure, he wants those people to play Xbox One with him, but he’s definitely a people person.

He still doesn’t like going to bed or being left to his own devices! Judging by the opposition I face when I suggest it, he is still only a fan of water once he is actually in the tub. Plus, he still hates foods with certain textures, enjoys Cheerios, and has simply turned “cruising the furniture” into climbing all over it.

Really, the most shocking thing about I learned by getting out his baby book was how prescient his baby traits were for the boy he is today. Even “It is fun to show something (as if to give it) and take it away laughing” still fits. So does “I babble constantly.” Or “I loathe peas.” But a favorite that he hasn’t yet outgrown? “I hug.”

Thanks for putting up with this personal blog. You know I’ll be going all out today to fete my birthday boy.

 

 

 

Officer Brings Birthday Happiness to Boy

This one is sweet and sad. When an eight-year-old boy didn’t get picked up from school, and staff couldn’t reach an emergency contact, the police were called.

When Officer Darryl Robinson of the Green Bay Police department in Wisconsin arrived to collect the boy he recognized him immediately. He’d had a history with the family and knew the boy’s parent was incarcerated.

Even though no one had arrived to get him, the boy “was in good spirits,” Robinson said. Why not? It was his eighth birthday!

birthday generosity

Officer Robinson courtesy of GBPD

Officer Robinson courtesy of GBPDRobinson gave the birthday boy a ride in his patrol car. “He was very excited to ride in one,” he said.

Then, after reaching the grandfather to confirm it was OK, he brought the boy to McDonald’s. And just like that it was a happier birthday: “He loved playing with the toy in his Happy Meal.”

The Response is Sweet Too

People commenting on the story on the Police Department’s Facebook page thanked Robinson for his efforts. One woman offered to drop presents for the boy off at the police station to be delivered. Another commenter wrote:

“I think I just felt my heart break…Thanks to the officer for making that boy’s birthday a little better.”

I second that emotion. The officer did an admirable thing, but it’s sad to think of this boy sitting alone at school on his birthday. The good news is that it only took an hour or so before the boy could be reunited with his grandparent and siblings.

Makes me think of the blog I wrote earlier this year about being there for a kid’s birthday, and another one about agencies doing their part to make sure every child gets to celebrate a birthday. Glad to have a heartwarming tale to share though about birthdays even in the heart of this holiday season.