Is “happy birthday” a thing for you?

November 26, 2018  |  3 comments Luisa Gutierrez

So, this happened. A customer at Monarch and Milkweed in Burlington left $0 tip after having been carded and not wished a happy birthday.

For now, let’s table important discussions this incident raises. For example, public shaming—especially revealing a customer’s name and part of their credit-card number—is something we would not do. Then there’s the tipping economy, in which workers not paid a living wage rely economically on each customer’s momentary choice. At Massage Vermont, we charge rates comparable with other area practitioners, discourage tipping, and donate any tips to a local nonprofit spay/neuter clinic.

For this post, it’s the birthday discussion that struck a chord with me. We might never know, but my guess is that the server didn’t connect the birth date on the customer’s ID card with the date the customer happened to be sitting at the server’s table.

At Massage Vermont, our client intake forms request your birth date. Along with your name, your birth date creates a unique identifier that prevents us from confusing your file with anyone else’s. But on the day you see me, I really might not know what the date is. (I recently wished my husband a happy birthday when I realized the date; it was noon at least.) Though I have reminded myself to look at the birth date on every file so I can wish clients a happy birthday, the truth is I don’t always check.

Would you feel slighted? Have you felt slighted this way?

Personally, I don’t mind getting a quiet “happy birthday” if someone happens to notice it’s mine. But I am one of those people who detest public attention. While I don’t care if you know my age (54), the idea of people singing “Happy Birthday” to me at a restaurant has always been filed in the folder marked My Worst Nightmares. Back in the days when I still got carded (it’s been twenty years at least), on my birthday I would hold my breath hoping for no response at all until the transaction had moved on.

Other people don’t want anyone to know their age or birth date.

How does being acknowledged on your birthday affect how you feel about a business? How do you feel about the way you’re treated on your birthday in contrast with other days?