JetBlue Airways sends email birthday greetings to TrueBlue members.

JetBlue Airways sends email birthday greetings to TrueBlue members. Credit: Handout

So Sunday was my birthday, and I gotta tell you, 29 feels awfully good. It felt pretty good to open my inbox, too, and see a few "happy birthday" messages from friends and family, as did reading the scores of Facebook wishes and indulging in the Carvel cake at the office on Friday. 

What I wasn't expecting was birthday greetings from airlines and cruises. Naturally, upon first sight, I became excited at the prospect of a freebie. But no such luck.

JetBlue sent the message pictured above. Nice. But, what -- no TrueBlue points? Even a token 5 would have made an impression. I love JetBlue, but  it's not like I can even be touched that they remembered. They have computers to automatically generate these things. So why are they clogging my inbox?

Princess Cruises at least tried to give the appearance of a bonus, with an email that stated "As the consummate host, we remembered that today is your special day. Click the flag to see the surprises we have just for you."

Clicking the flag brought me to a game called "Where Would You Like Us to Take You?" during which I had to drag three Princess Cruise ship flags onto a map to indicate three places I'd like to visit. Might I win a cruise?

I dragged mine to Alaska, Venice and Syndey. Clicked done. Nothing happened. Choices that followed were "Play a Game" (no, thank you, I just did that) and "Get a Surprise" (yes, please.)

I got a surprise, all right: No free cruise. Not even a "sorry, you're not a winner" notice, which would have left me feeling I, at least, had stood a chance. Even a small discount or upgrade would have been nice. How about a coupon for a free souvenir photo the next time I cruise with Princess? Or even an entry in a contest for a free souvenir photo. Something. Anything.

But, no, my surprise was being treated to an animated graphic with my name on it. It said, "Happy birthday, Jessica Damiano. Princess Cruises" 

All that work just to have my name "magically" appear on the screen.  I guess I was surprised, after all -- and maybe a little incredulous that for my birthday, I'd be lured to the Princess website for no apparent reason other than to increase page views for their content, which is why I started over, this time selecting "Play a Game" after dragging my flags. Surely, I must have missed something.

The game was a matching-memory type of diversion, where I was to be shown 5 photos and would be given a few seconds to study them before having to match them up with something or other. I X'ed out.

Baskin-Robbins, on the other hand, nailed it: I got a free ice cream cone. Now THAT'S a proper birthday surprise.

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