By June Mathews
If during the month of your birth your email inbox becomes flooded with messages reading something like, “Many happy returns – and oh, yeah, here’s a coupon for some free food!” you’ve obviously provided your email address and birthdate to far too many restaurants.
Yeah, of course we’re talking about me here. And honestly, I didn’t mean to sign up for the three free desserts, four free appetizers (with purchase), a two-for-one discount on chicken biscuits and a free medium cappuccino at Ye Olde Local Donut Shoppe. It just kind of…happened.
The thing is, I eat out a lot, far more than I should, according to my mother. I’m a member of two girlfriend groups that eat out monthly and another that gets together quarterly. Then there are the various and sundry times I breakfast or lunch with individual friends or business associates.
Combine those occasions with all the eating out Jimmie and I do, a convenience we take advantage of multiple times a week, and the tabs add up.
So in an effort to keep costs reasonable, I spend a lot of time searching for coupons on restaurant websites. But as my fellow cheapskates know, whenever I find deals I’m usually required to give up some information (my email address and birthdate, for example) to gain access to them. Thus, over the course of a year, I sign up for numerous frequent diner specials, birthday clubs, midweek menu reminders, etc., all for the sake of discounts and a few freebies here and there.
As much as the subsequent emails crowd my inbox, giving up my restaurant research is not an option. I mean, a discount is a discount, and when it comes to all those birthday offers, free is free. I’ve never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially when it comes to food, and I don’t see any reason to start now. Groceries are expensive these days.
Besides, seeking out restaurant discounts or freebies is a longtime family tradition. When I was 6 years old, Mama signed me up for the Perkins Pancake House Birthday Club. Ever since receiving the promised coupon in the mail for a free short stack of pancakes, there’s been no turning back.
Even though the process has evolved from checking the mailbox to checking the inbox, the desired outcome is the same: I save money by eating out (that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it), and I don’t have to cook.
As for my crowded inbox, I’ll occasionally launch into cleaning mode and unsubscribe from all the restaurant email lists I’ve signed up for. But then I’ll need a restaurant coupon, and the cycle of clutter begins again.
I’ve often thought about creating a separate email address for all my restaurant-related correspondence. But after using the same address for 12-plus years, remembering to use a different one would probably be more than my brain could manage.
Come to think of it, though, having two email addresses might allow me to sign up for some discounts twice. I don’t imagine the restaurants would mind. Every time I darken one of their doorways, I wind up spending more than a few dollars, coupon or not. With the lure of two coupons, I’d probably spend twice as much – all of which goes a long way toward explaining why restaurants are willing to offer so many online deals.
Truth be told, I really should be paying closer attention to the math. I’m beginning to suspect that all these freebies I’ve been getting aren’t so free after all.