I Tried To Get As Much Free Sh*t On My Birthday As Humanly Possible

Photo: Danielle Page

How much free stuff can you get on your birthday? One brave birthday girl decided to find out.

It happens every year, a few weeks before my birthday. My inbox floods with emails from companies who know I'm about to be another year older, spamming me with all kinds of special birthday offers.

Usually, I ignore the promises of birthday discounts and free stuff, figuring that there must be some kind of catch. But this year, with nothing better to do on a non-milestone birthday like 28, I decided to capitalize on all of them, and swindle my way into non-advertised freebies as well.

Here's what happened when I spent my birthday collecting as much free sh*t as I possibly could.

1. Dunkin Donuts

DD has a "perks" program that offers a complimentary drink on your birthday. I'd had the DD card in my wallet for a while, but had never actually enrolled or put my birth date in until a week before I decided I was going to shamelessly seek out all the free birthday sh*t I could get my hands on. Still, I figured that a week's time would be enough notice to score me my free drink.

I walked into DD with my ID and Perks card firmly in hand, went up to the cashier and proudly exclaimed that today was my birthday, I'm a Perks card holder and would like my free coffee now, please. She wished me happy birthday, and told me that unfortunately there was nothing she could do for me without the coupon that DD supposedly sends in the mail that she would need to scan. I soldiered on.

2. Starbucks

Walking into a Starbucks in New York City before 10 AM is a special kind of hell. Lines sometimes spill out the door, orders get messed up in the chaos, and there's always some guy ranting about his drink getting taken by accident and how now he'll be late to work and it's all the Starbuck barista's fault.

So you can imagine the anxiety I felt after my failure at DD while braving the line, hoping my enrollment in Starbuck's loyalty program didn't come too late as well. Cut to 20 minutes later, where I walked up to the very stressed out cashier with my license in hand and my app opened to show that I was a Starbucks Rewards member.

Bless the cashier's heart. He took my phone and attempted to find my free drink, even as the people behind me started cursing under their breath. Finally he made a hasty apology, saying that I needed to have been a member for 30 days in order to get the birthday drink. I left with nothing to show for the half-hour ordeal. What a way to welcome 28.

3. Au Bon Pain

I felt way better about scoring at Au Bon Pain because I had an actual coupon promising me a free sandwich, which was sent to me a few days after joining their eClub. I went with egg, cheddar and avocado on a bagel, and approached the cashier with my license and the coupon.

The exchange went off without a hitch. She scanned the coupon code, packed my sandwich up and wished me a very happy birthday. Finally, some validation! Some free sh*t! Even though my breakfast was set, I was still really bummed out about not getting my free birthday caffeine fix, so I decided to try again.

4. Dunkin Donuts, take two

As I was walking to work, I passed by another Dunkin Donuts and locked eyes with the young guy behind the counter, who smiled at me. Since I'm not above flirting my way to a free birthday beverage, I decided to give Dunkin Donuts another shot.

I told my new admirer that today was my birthday, and explained that even though I'm a proud Perks member, I didn't have the coupon that was sent in the mail. He asked if it was really my birthday. I told him that I wouldn't lie to him, and flashed my ID to prove it.

After telling me that I don't look 28 and casually mentioning he has a thing for older women, he agreed to give me the free iced coffee that I asked for. And his number, which I did not. But hey, free is free.

5. Baskin Robbins

Baskin Robbins has this "Jamoca Almond Fudge" ice cream flavor that I'm all about. There was no way I was having my birthday go by without getting my hands on a free scoop. I joined their birthday club and got an email about my enrollment, but not the actual coupon.

Nervous from my first two failed attempts, but feeling good about finally getting my free DD, I took a break from work to try my luck at a location by my office. Not only did I get my free scoop, but the employee who helped me filled the tiny one-scoop cup up to the very top. That's the kind of birthday treatment I'm all about.

6. Pinkberry

Yes, I chased my trip to Baskin Robbins with a stop at Pinkberry. Ain't no shame in my free birthday treat game. This location was particularly busy, and I had to shout to the girl behind the counter that it was my birthday a few times before she got that I was there to claim my free medium-sized Pinkberry with toppings. But the people waiting in line all wished me happy birthday, so it was all good.

I flashed my loyalty app to the cashier, who looked around to try and find the birthday coupon I should have had. When he couldn't find it, he just wished me a happy birthday and sent me on my way. Full disclosure: The coupon showed up a week later and I used it to get another free one. #Winning.

7. Cab rides

OK, so there's no loyalty program for NYC cabs. But while I was on a roll for scoring birthday freebies, I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask. I hopped in a cab to meet my parents for dinner (because that's how you celebrate your birthday when you're old like me) and started to make small talk with the cab driver.

I mentioned it was my birthday and asked if there was any birthday discount he could possibly give me. Our exchange went as follows:

Cab driver: "Is it really your birthday?"

Me: "Yup!"

Cab driver: "You're not going to get me in trouble right?"

Me: "Of course not!"

And then he shut off the meter.


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