The biggest con of them all, though, has got to be birthdays. Not only is it the one day of the year where your employers pretend to care about your existence enough to get you a birthday cake, it’s also great for getting loads of free shit.
In light of this, I decided this year I would throw myself a fake birthday. Personally, because I love attention, but also to see if restaurants, bars and common people on the street would treat me differently simply because I’d been alive one year longer. The pound shop had loads of birthday gear so I bought some bits to make it more believable; see, I’m not a total cheapskate. Then, after a quick Google of where does free birthday stuff, I signed up to as many mailing lists as possible, and set out.
SCAM #1: BAKED GOODS
The day kicked off as all good days should, with something from beloved British bakery chain, Greggs. As soon as I stepped through the door and upon seeing how glamorous my outfit was the staff greeted me with a cheery “Happy Birthday!” before letting me choose exactly what I wanted, thanks to a) my celebratory sash; and b) birthday “proof”, through a forged date on their mobile app. I opted for Novelty Ring Bun as it seemed the most celebratory, but also because it came with a free ring. The app also allowed me to swipe a Lucozade just for signing up.
Scam total: £1.80
SCAM #2: RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS
“It’s your birthday innit?”
Turns out the guy at the convenience store had also noticed my get-up, which – as you can see above – included a party hat and “birthday girl” rosette. Result. “You can just have it,” he said, pointing at the pack of Wrigley’s gum in my hand. “Happy birthday!”
Scam total: £0.45
SCAM #3: CHEEKY EARLY MORNING COCKTAIL
When scamming, it’s important to remain drunk or at least slightly under the influence at all times in order to maintain ultimate confidence. Related: I'd soon be travelling to hell (east London’s Westfields shopping centre) for the next scamming pit-stop offer, so needed to prep myself. Also related: I just really needed/wanted a cocktail. I merely walked up to the bar and asked if I could have a free cocktail for my birthday and it worked! Life is so blissful!
Scam total: £7
SCAM #4: SOMETHING HEALTHY, I GUESS?
Birthdays are all about giving three cheers to good health, so it was time for some juice. And since Boost bar also operate a free drink on your birthday if you have the app, that's where I headed. Initially, I was thankful to ingest the nutrients of a super healthy Kinky Kale juice, but, NGL, walking around Europe’s biggest shopping centre with a large health drink and a photographer felt like we were on MTV’s My Super Sweet 16. At one point, a teenager in a tiara walked past, wishing me a great day; unfortunately, this didn’t immediately register, due to it not actually being my birthday. Good vibes!
Scam total: £5.85
Oh – and The Body Shop offer a £5 voucher to anyone celebrating their big old birth, so I grabbed a foot scrub. Great.
Scam total: £5
By now, since I’d posted about it on Instagram, a lot of my “actual mates” had non-ironically wished me a happy birthday and I was starting to get annoyed that so many couldn’t remember sending literally the same message two months before. Even worse, my friend Sian spotted me from across the platform at Stratford and shouted a vague birthday wish. Sian, hun. Sian. I love you but, come on.
Ah well, fuck it:
SCAM #5: YE OLDE WETHERSPOONS TRICK
No birthday is complete without a trip to Spoons and since the app now allows you to send drinks to tables without being there, it was ideal. After posting my table number online, I received: one very dry baked potato with beans (£4.79), two pints (£3.49, one came with the potato), three Smirnoff Ice (£10.17), three shot variants (let’s say £10), a gin and tonic (£2.90), a Cheeky V (£6.50) and two pots of peas (£1.10).
Scam total: £38.95
SCAM #6: MEN
As the server delivered the food she complained that “someone thinks they’re being funny”, so I ate an entire portion of one of the two pots of peas while in her eye line to make her feel better. If I'm honest, they were as dry as the joke of sending them in the first place. Aren’t I nice?
Anyway! At this point a man materialised next to our table, asking my mate if it was her birthday. “No, it’s hers," she said, pointing at my sash. I couldn’t be arsed, but then he asked if I smoked weed. I said I did. He disappeared and came back with a healthy sized nug (let’s say, about £7 worth). Magic.
Scam total: £7
SCAM #7: IF I'M HONEST, GETTING AS DRUNK AS I CAN
After Spoons, we headed to another bar called Flynn’s. A geezer at the bar recognised me as a local but still didn’t buy me a drink, even though I gave him the rare opportunity to speak to me for approximately 10 seconds. An unfair deal, though the disappointment was shortly satiated with free karaoke. Obviously I sang Robbie Williams. In particular, Robbie Williams’ eternal classic, “Rock DJ”.
Scam total: £0
SCAM #8: STREET TRASH
Not really a scam this one, tbh. Basically: it was someone else’s birthday, there was loads of their birthday trash on the street outside Flynn's and I drunkenly picked it all up, because everything is a good idea when you're drunk. At the time I was delighted but in retrospect don’t feel great about how close that actual pile of trash is to my face. Also, yes, one of the things says "Happy Father's Day", but who's counting.
I woke up the next day with a hangover from hell, half a Lucozade, a smattering of "sorry I missed your birthday" messages, Robbie Williams stuck in my head and an email from Ed’s Diner saying I was entitled to a free milkshake. If anyone wants to claim this from me, please take it, the amount of sugar consumed in this one day was so intense and it won’t be happening again any time soon.
Despite feeling like dogshit and with absolutely no real monetary gifts in sight, like a Playstation 4, the fake birthday scam was a success. Would prescribe to anyone who’d like to shake their online data up a little or to flex on the Queen, the original two-birthday-haver. Apologies to all my so-called friends who fell for it, though you’ll certainly be hearing from me later.
Grand total: £66.55