A birthday present

Cherry Petals vs. Starbucks Cup

This coulda been my cup!

The “present” in the post title does not refer to a gift, although this post is about one. No, it refers to a time period as in: past, present, future.

Once upon a time I received the gift of a Starbucks gift card. It was a thoughtful gift even though the nearest Starbucks is something like 40 miles away from my small hometown.

In the course of owning that card, I ended up creating an account on the Starbucks web site. The purpose of which was to determine the balance remaining on the card.

During that exercise I provided Starbucks with certain information about myself, one of which was the date of my birth.

Normally it is usually something pleasant to receive a birthday gift. Starbucks was able to turn it into something else. Read on to learn how.

I received, in the mail, a postcard from Starbucks. They were giving me a “FREE DRINK” for my birthday. How nice. I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised.

That feeling wore off soon enough.

I now read from the Postcard of Starbucks:

You know us. We’d never miss a birthday.

We noticed your Star was shining brighter the other day. Must be time to celebrate your birthday.

Actually, this feels a bit creepy. I don’t really know you that well. Are you level jumping our relationship?

And WTF? My “star?” Just what are you implying about me? And why the hell is the word “Star” capitalized? Is this Star some sort of god in the realm of Starbucks? “Hail, mortals! Gaze thine eyes upon Bean, Venti and Star. The holy trinity of Starbucks!”

Meh. So I carefully read the card, not wanting any surprises prior to making the 40-mile drive in an attempt to redeem it. If I drove 40 miles only to be denied, there could be, as Robocop used to say, “trouble.”

Present this postcard for a FREE DRINK.
(We’ll make you any drink you like.)

That sounds good enough. All things being equal I’m actually a fairly reasonable fellow. True, I recently gave up coffee, but how could I expect you to know that? After all, we barely know each other. I’m sure I’ll find something you make that I can drink. Maybe a hot cocoa?

But then came the moment I always expect. The moment when expectations are flushed down the toilet. I continued to read on, this time scrutinizing the tinyest print found anywhere on the card:

Pardon us while we cover our bases.
–Thus sayeth the postcard

Now wait one damn minute! What the hell kind of “gift” is this, anyway? What kind of friend comes up to you on your birthday and says, “Here’s a gift for ya, pall. Be sure to read the legalese before opening, though. I enclosed an End User License Agreement. I have to cover my ass, ya know? Nothing personal. Oh, and, before I forget – Happy Birthday!

With friends like that who needs enemies?

The wind was now completely out of my sails as I warily pressed on:

See expiration date on address block.
–Thus sayeth the postcard


… must be cheerfully handed over at time of visit.
–Thus sayeth the postcard

Well played, Starbucks. Well played! If the expiration date didn’t get me the “cheerful” clause was there to guarantee that my attempt at redemption would fail. We all know I can’t pass any sort of damn cheerful clause!

And who in the hell gives a birthday gift with an expiration date?

I checked the date. I looked at the card. Yep, the date had already passed. I was no longer holding a “gift” in my hands. Due to the passage of two weeks of time I was holding nothing more interesting than a piece of Starbucks advertising. Two weeks expiration from the date of the birthday seems like a very narrow window indeed.

“Here’s a gift for ya, pal. No matter how inconvenient this might be, haul your ass to our store (40 miles away) and within the next two weeks – or you get nothing! Also, while you’re there, you might as well buy a bunch of our magnificent shit for top dollar.”

Well happy motherfucking birthday to me!

Starbucks had literally given me a present that could only be used in the present.

Thanks a lot, Starbucks. Thanks for nothing. Thanks for doing the impossible and making my birthday somehow even less than I could ever possibly expect.

11 responses

  1. I would have been the schmuck that drove the 40 miles only to THEN read the fine print. Smart move. Now that I know that you live 40 miles from the nearest Starbucks, it will be much easier to figure out what backwoods you live in. We have five Starbucks in my itty-bitty town. I redeemed my $5 gift card from one of my students at the supermarket that has a satellite Starbucks inside. Now what to do with the 35 cents left on the card? Hmmm.


    1. Just paranoid, I guess. 🙂

      I may have said too much. How many places can be left that have no Starbucks within a 40 mile radius?!?

      35 cents on the card? Bingo! I have that problem every time. 🙂


  2. Sadly, I find that businesses “remember” my birthday more often than my friends do…

    I’m the queen of collecting offers like this, but I rarely redeem them because in my disorder I always lose them.

    I AM outraged on your behalf about the very short window Starbucks allows for redemption. If Starbucks wishes to generate good feeling by its birthday offer, it has most definitely failed! I’ve heard that Starbucks is moving toward removing its name and the word coffee from many of its stores to pretend that it’s a local place.

    I’m too cheap to buy coffee out (I buy Café Bustelo online, free shipping if you buy enough, no need to redeem any gift cards or even leave your house! cafebustelo.com or http://www.javacabana.com)


    1. Your outrage is intoxicating. Woot! 🙂

      Happy birthday to you, whenever it is.

      The more I think about it, the more I think that Starbucks postcard was doomed to fail. I don’t believe in celebrating my number of orbits around the star in this solar system.


  3. Okay, I was joking about being dissed by the WP monkeys but I’m one of THOSE ppl who actually LOVE a nonfat venti latte (read 3 espressos with a bit of scalded skim milk).

    I’ve NEVER received a bloody bday freebie card and I *do* have a registered card. Damn. Maybe it’s because you ARE special. Has to be.


    1. Perhaps you should write Starbucks a strongly-worded letter. Then, if they write back, you can publish both. At the very least it could make an interesting post on your blog.

      The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll have no free drink, but we’re both already in that same boat, aren’t we?


      1. See? That’s forward thinking for you again. I think, “Hrm, didn’t give me one. Oh, well” and don’t change. Dumb, huh? Don’t answer that.


  4. For the record, I hate Starbucks, so please don’t send me any gifts from there. Thank you very much.

    (How FRIGGIN’ lame of them! Uggghhhh!!!!)


    1. Hopes dashed on the rocky shores of Starbucks. I guess my “Star” must have imploded into a black hole.

      Once I met a friend from England at a Starbucks. She was vacationing in my neck of the woods, perhaps two hours away. We decided to meet at a midpoint location – about a one drive for both of us – at a Starbucks.

      We started by purchasing some drinks. Seemed only fair since we were using their location as a meeting spot. Then we started going through family albums she had brought and also taking some pictures.

      Sure enough, the store manager busted us. Seemed we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside their store. That put quite the damper on the festivities! We ended up taking a lot less pictures out on the sidewalk. Alas we chose Starbucks as a nice meeting place for friends that were thousands of miles apart!

      Like I said, perhaps a Starbucks gift card wasn’t the most thoughtful gift I could have ever received. Starbucks hasn’t been very good to me.


  5. Starbucks is tricky. I don’t drink coffee either, but I loved their toffee bars…which they no longer carry. Bah.


    1. So the things they no longer offer are good. Got it. 🙂


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