Automated birthday emails are a constant part of modern life, right next to death, taxes and bad weather computer updates. Once a year, my inbox fills to the brim with reminders of how many companies I’ve entrusted my birthday to.
But not this year. No, this year was going to be different. This year I continued to relentlessly unsubscribe, just mercilessly clicking the unsubscribe button every time something from a corporate mailing list came into my inbox. But I knew some things would definitely slip through.
See, companies can’t resist a birthday. This is one of the easiest things they can do to get someone’s attention. “Birthday emails are some of the most effective emails you can send,” says a blog post from Campaign Monitor, an email marketing company, just before dropping some absolutely crazy claims, including: “Emails for a birthday generate 342% more revenue than email promotional emails.”
No wonder companies want to wish you a happy birthday so bad—they’ll take that happy birthday feeling right to the checkout, where you’ll get a donut to go with your free coffee or take 20 percent off discount this month only to get this thing. You know, the one you probably wouldn’t have until you get that email and then think, “My birthday is… Hell yes I deserve a treat!”
To be clear, my unsubscribe kick wasn’t related to all these corporate birthday shenanigans. I love a birthday treat as much as the next person; I just wanted less of a firehose of emails the rest of the year. But my birthday was going to be a test – since companies can’t resist a good birthday email, I knew all the lists I was already on would definitely send something
Here’s how it went:
- Weeks before my birthday, I get an email from a local boutique with a discount code to use anytime during my birthday month: “Happy birthday from us to you! Enjoy 20% off every purchase this month because you deserve it. I do they deserve it, local boutique. But I know your game. You’re not going to make me buy those cute notebooks… are you? I can stay strong.
- A week before my birthday, a credit monitoring company sends me an email: “Happy birthday! Because nothing says ‘I love to party’ more than a message about your finances.” They also want to remind me, “that no matter where you stand with your credit scores—or your age—you are so much more than any number can was measured. Sign up and expand your horizons.” No thanks. I am fine. If you can’t get my birthday right, how will I trust those credit scores?
- My birthday is coming up. I get an email from my alma mater who sent a video suggesting I’ll probably be alone in front of my laptop celebrating my birthday. They are wrong. I was alone and on my phone at the time.
- It’s still morning and my email is surprisingly empty except for emails from family and friends. Well done, me! I get to check the birthday animation on my Apple Watch. There were balloons. I get a kick out of it. I show it to my eight-month-old, who is momentarily fascinated and then resumes his usual morning routine of playing “grab the trash can.” She didn’t wish me happy birthday. I forgave her.
- The New York Blood Center is emailing me to wish me a happy birthday. These vampires always want my blood and my birthday is no exception; they include a link to save an appointment in their email. It’s a good reminder that blood banks are in trouble this summer lack of blood across the country. Donate if you can!
- Regal sends me an email offering free small popcorn — if only I come to see a movie. I haven’t been to the theater since 2019. It’s going to take more than a tub of popcorn to make me go back. But I also now want popcorn.
- Afternoon and my dentist sends me an email. Unlike the blood center and the movie theater, they don’t overtly try to get me to go somewhere. They just wish me a great day and make the obligatory dentist joke about smiles. I feel guilty anyway. How long has it been since I’ve been to the dentist? Too long.
- I weigh myself on my smart scale. It tells me my weight and then, in a surprising move, flashes a happy birthday message complete with digital fireworks. That’s nice, I guess? It would be nicer if it wasn’t “helpful” right after tell me i’ve gained a pound. I immediately blame the birthday cookie dough I pulled out of the fridge earlier. It was worth it.
Overall not too bad, but obviously I hadn’t considered my gadgets and appliances when I started this mini data collection.
Next year I’ll see if my microwave has anything to say for itself.