Friday, July 20, 2018

Where to Eat for Free on Your Birthday

Welcome to my Birthday Freebie Challenge!

The goal was to get as many birthday freebies as possible within a 10 mile radius of our home in Boise, Idaho. The only ground rule for the challenge was that it had to be completely free. No free dessert with entrée purchase, no free appetizer with drink purchase, and certainly no buy one get one free deals.

I found 29 restaurants that offered straight-up freebies. Most all required signing up online and/or downloading apps. I made a spreadsheet and numbered the restaurants in the order I would visit them. I left spaces to write down the time I visited, what the meal would have cost, and a spot for notes. Hubby tagged along with me, and we left the house at 5:45 AM and didn't return home until after 7:00 PM.

And yes, I did this all in one day and nope, I didn't eat all the food. Even though the birthday freebies were in my name, several places automatically brought a plate for hubby to share the food without me even asking. Some places we ate a couple bites then got a to-go box and some places we just got it to-go right away. I kept a bag and an ice chest in the car and used both all along the way. Since I went to places close by, I made several runs home to drop off leftovers.  (A picture of my fridge is in the last photo.) I've been sharing my leftovers with appreciative elderly neighbors all week.

Here we go with my Birthday Freebies List, all experienced first-hand (by me, the birthday girl) in a single day:
  1. IHOP - Sign up for their e-club and receive a coupon for a free regular stack of pancakes. I chose a peach Rooty Tooty stack. 
  2. Krispy Kreme - I signed up online and had to download an app to get a free glazed doughnut. When I told the gal at the counter it was my birthday and I wasn't sure how to use the app for my freebie, she said I was entitled to any doughnut and a coffee for free. I went with a glazed raspberry filled and gave hubby my coffee. It’s only place where we ate the entire freebie.
  3. Denny's - A free Grand Slam breakfast on your birthday is their offer. No sign up, no coupon - just let the server know. They were out of sausage so I doubled up on bacon, and since I had leftover pancakes from IHOP I chose toast here.
  4. Black Bear Diner - Sign up and a coupon will (maybe) be emailed to you. I received a welcome coupon for a free bear claw and coffee, but my birthday email never showed up. I talked to the server about it not arriving - I even showed her the email on my phone to prove I was a member of their club - but she was still very curt with me. At that point I decided to just get the bear claw and coffee to go. While I've been there before and had good service, this visit left me feeling a bit bummed about the place.
  5. Cracker Barrel - Let the server know it's your birthday to get a free dessert. I asked the host at the podium about the possibility of getting a free dessert without ordering anything else and he had to check with the manager before allowing it. They don't have a stated policy about needing to order other food, but I wouldn't encourage going just for dessert. They seemed annoyed with me for even asking. Coca-Cola chocolate cake - hold the ice cream - was the dessert of choice.
  6. Sonic - Download their app for a free birthday milkshake.
  7. Del Taco - Sign up and get a coupon for a free premium milkshake for your birthday. You will also get an email for two free chicken tacos to welcome you to their club. They allowed me to use both coupons at the same time. They also allowed us to use our two free taco coupons we got from the Boise Hawks game. For a fast food place early in the morning the gal was nice and friendly. And they had a salsa bar. Score!
  8. Shari's - Sign up for their club and download their app for a free slice of pie. Marionberry, please.
  9. Panera Bread - Sign up for their club and download the app for a free pastry or sweet. Apple crunch muffin for me.
  10. Edible Arrangements - I signed up online and it said I was given $5 to use. The gal at the counter looked it up for me and said it was in their system but she also said I'd have to buy something over $5 to be able to use it. I asked her about other options and told her I was doing a birthday freebie thing. She gave me two chocolate covered strawberries, and let me still keep the $5 on my account.
  11. Cinnabon - Sign up and get a free iced coffee for your birthday. My location didn't have iced coffee (I'm not a coffee drinker anyway) so she gave me a large soda instead. You also get a coupon for four free bonbites for signing up so I picked those up, too.
  12. Wendy's - One of the birthday freebie websites said if I signed up for Wendy's email list I would get a free birthday Frosty. A coupon never arrived. Instead we had two coupons from a Boise Hawks game so we used those to get free small Frostys instead.
  13. Baskin Robbins - Sign up and receive a coupon for a free small scoop on your birthday. (This is the only birthday freebie I've ever used before.)
  14. Firehouse Subs - Sign up and download the app to get a free sub on your birthday. Most places I signed up for sent out birthday freebie emails at least a day ahead of the date but I didn't receive Firehouse's until my actual birthday. Steak and cheese sub was my choice.
  15. Pita Pit - Sign up and get a free soft drink.
  16. Flatbread Neapolitan Pizzeria - Sign up and get a free Margherita Pizza for your birthday. You will also receive a coupon for a free flatbread as a thank you for signing up for the email list. I had no problem using both at the same time. 
  17. Taco John's - Sign up and download their app to get a free meat and potato burrito. This was the restaurant that was farthest from our home at 7.5 miles.
  18. Costa Vida - Sign up and download their app to get a free birthday dessert. They also send a $4 bonus for signing up. I used both at the same time with no problem. An enchilada kids meal with beans, rice, and drink and a key lime pie dessert.
  19. Smokey Mountain Pizza - Sign up and receive a free personal pizza (unlimited toppings) or pasta entree on your birthday.
  20. The Counter - Sign up to get a free order of small fries.
  21. Kona Grill - Sign up and receive a coupon for $15 off any order. I asked if I could take something to go (it didn't specify on the coupon) and was told it is usually eat-in only. But the manager was standing there and allowed me to get the Cuban sandwich with sweet potato fries as a to-go order.
  22. Grimaldi's Pizza - Sign up and get a free one topping 16" pizza (a $17 value). You also receive a $5 bonus for signing up. It was quite a hassle (or so they made it seem), but they did allow me to use both at the same time.
  23. Johnny Carino's - Sign up and get a coupon for $5 off an order. The cheapest thing on the menu was half a lettuce wedge salad at $4.99. The coupon stated it could be used when placing or picking up an order, but they didn't want to do it as a pick up order. They eventually did, but charged me 30 cents in sales tax. It was the only place on the list that charged the tax.
  24. Culver's - Sign up and get a free one scoop sundae for your birthday. The gal behind the counter handed it to me messy, with the strawberry topping dripping all over my hands before I even got out the door. In my haste to clean up the mess before putting it in the car I forgot to take a picture of it.
  25. Jersey Mike's - Sign up and receive a coupon for a free sandwich and drink. This is another coupon that didn't arrive until mid-morning on my birthday. A roast beef and provolone was my choice.
  26. Noodles and Company - Sign up and download the app to receive a free crispy or cookie on your birthday. Yet another mid-morning coupon arrival.
  27. Red Robin - Sign up and get a free gourmet burger on your birthday. We did eat half of this burger (I love pineapple with no tomato and no lettuce on a burger!) and took the rest home.
  28. Sizzler - Sign up and receive a free classic burger. (Cheese would have cost extra, so none this time.) This burger isn't technically a birthday freebie but rather a sign up freebie. 
  29. Old Chicago Pizza - Sign up and receive $17 towards a pizza on your birthday. They found me in their system using my phone number and didn't know why my free pizza wasn't showing up, but they gave it to me anyway. Very friendly here.
Would I do it again? No way. As we only took bites of food here and there, thankfully we weren't overly stuffed. But it was a long and taxing day, requiring utmost patience on my part with some of the people working in the restaurants. It was clear some people were happy to be working a job and others weren't. Being we don't go out to eat much, I didn't realize there was such a difference in service from restaurant to restaurant. Boy, there sure is. 

As I visited the restaurants throughout the day I found that some places were quite welcoming and even wished me a happy birthday (yay to those establishments) and others seemed annoyed they even had a customer they had to wait on, let alone one with a coupon (boo to those places). I generously tipped those who were deserving using the encouraging words money pockets I made this week and even those not deserving were left with at least a dollar in the encouraging words money pockets.

As much as I don't like having extra apps on my phone, it really was easy-peasy to redeem my freebies at the places requiring the app. But the places where I had to print the coupon? It was a big old pain. They had to read the coupon a couple times, check with the manager, come over and talk to me again, check the coupon again, etc. It was like they had never seen the coupon before. More than once I pulled up the original email on my phone to prove I really did get it from their company. But not one single place asked for ID to prove it was my birthday.

I received $210.24 in food but paid only 30 cents of it (sales tax at Johnny Carino's). Hubby and I only drank water so no beverages were purchased. I did leave tips but didn't include those in my figures as I would have been leaving my encouraging words money pockets anyway. I did use more gas in the car than I expected as it was a 100 degree day so the air conditioning was running all the time and we were driving city miles, not highway miles.

If you decide to take advantage of any of the birthday freebies on the list (or are up to trying your own Birthday Freebie Challenge), I'd love to hear about how it went for you. You can email me using the little envelope icon on the upper right hand corner of this page. You can also email me if you'd like a copy of my spreadsheet to use for your Challenge Day.

And a disclaimer...Remember, these are current freebies as of July 2018 so check with your local establishments to see if they are valid when your birthday comes around. 

Happy eating! And Happy Birthday to you, whenever it is!