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Free Gifts on Your Birthday
By Tony Ricciuto, Niagara Falls Review

It's your birthday and there are plenty of businesses out there who want to help you celebrate with a free gift.

It might be something small like a coupon or a coffee, or it can be something considerably more expensive like a meal.

Some places will want you to show proof, so be honest.

There are times when restaurants change their free birthday promotions or individual restaurants decide not to participate so be sure to call before heading out to celebrate.

For a business, it's an excellent opportunity to get one more customer walking through the door, along with many of their friends who are taking part in that birthday celebration, said Mike Schiano. He has a website called FreeBirthday.com and is also a known author, broadcaster and founder of Green Rain Marketing, which is in Florida.

"What we found is that the average person, when they go out for their birthday, they don't go alone. They generally bring three people with them, so for a business it's actually a good idea because you might be giving away one free meal, but you get two, three or more paying customers with that person," said Schiano.

He said he has done a considerable amount of research on this topic since 1997.

Initially, he added, some businesses would give things away to customers on their birthdays, but they didn't want that to get around to a lot of people for fear of losing money.

When people sign on to FreeBirthday.com, they begin receiving gifts from some of America's top retailers and restaurants. They promise you will easily receive more than $100 in free birthday gifts.

Some companies are even taking the free birthday gift one step further. It's a way to encourage people to visit their establishments on those days when business is slow.

"If Tuesday is a slow day for them, they might say you get a free meal during the month of your birthday, but it's on a certain day. It's a way to help them on their slow days, nights or weekends or whenever that happens to be," said Schiano.

For many of the larger chains, the free gifts apply across the board, but for many of the smaller operations he recommends it's a good idea to simply call ahead and ask if they offer anything free on someone's birthday.

Some of the better known free birthday gifts include a free beverage at Starbucks, a free burger at Ruby Tuesday, a free hamburger with the purchase of any entree and drink at Johnny Rockets, 10 free wings at Hooters, a free grandslam breakfast at Denny's, a free 2.5-ounce scoop of ice cream or a swirl of soft serve at Dairy Queen, and a Rooty Tooty fresh 'N' Fruity pancake stack at IHOP.

Some people join birthday clubs. They get special offers from merchants all year long, not just on their birthday.

Schiano said people have many choices when they decide to go out and celebrate a birthday, so often it takes more than a free piece of cake or beverage to attract a potential customer.

"You are competing for that business. It's better for you to give a meal because that will be more attractive. Our goal has always been to give consumers options," he said. "We think you should be able to get up on your birthday without spending money."

Some businesses, he added, will offer a free meal just for signing up on their website because they view it as a way of gaining a loyal customer.

"Over the months you will receive coupons or special promotions, along with a freebie on your birthday. In most places, we find that if you mention it happens to be someone's birthday they will offer you something."

Some people might be embarrassed to mention it's their birthday, so in that case someone else at the table should mention it to a staff member when the person who is celebrating the birthday has gone to the washroom or has stepped away from the table.

"It's one thing to give something away for free, but you shouldn't have a lot of rules or make it hard for people to get it because you want to make it fun and exciting for that person. You don't have to go and sing at the table, but you want to make it a special event," said Schiano. "If someone has chosen your restaurant for dinner, that's a big deal and we always suggest that the manager goes over to say hi and congratulates the person to make sure they enjoy the visit."

At Value Village, customers can sign up for their super savers club card, which not only provides a discount for people on their birthday, they also receive advance notices by e-mail of upcoming sales throughout the year.

"It's totally free with no strings attached," said Tony Serra, manager of the Lundy's Lane store in Niagara Falls.

"For example, we might have a 50 per cent sale and club members will receive an e-mail about three days before the sale and they can come in the day before the sale and get that same discount."

They have close to 9,000 club members, and with that many club members taking advantage of the savings, the day before a sale can actually be busier than the day of the sale, said Serra.

"We offer 20 per cent off on their birthday. And with Halloween coming up just around the corner, they will be getting an e-mail with an offer that will have a percentage off some new merchandise. With a club card, it gives people more of a heads up so they don't have to wait until they see something posted in the store."tony.ricciuto@sunmedia.caType your paragraph here.

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