Author Topic: Birthday Balloon Goes Bust *Update Post 11, 12 & 20  (Read 6432 times)

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oopsie

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Birthday Balloon Goes Bust *Update Post 11, 12 & 20
« on: March 26, 2013, 11:56:02 AM »
Gah! I feel like such a prize idiot. I swear I had good intentions but it appears to have backfired.

This morning, a client I work and get along well with mentioned it was his birthday today. I immediately wished him a happy birthday and he said thank you. About an hour later, I went out and bought a single cupcake and a happy birthday helium balloon. Unfortunately, when I took it to him, he did not look pleased. He didn't thank me but instead said "you didn't have to do that. I shouldn't have mentioned it." Feeling incredibly awkward, I just smiled at him, made small talk and then a quick exit.

Ugh. Now I feel terrible. One, because in general it sucks when you try to do something nice for someone and you end up feeling like a jerk and two, because I got the impression that I insulted him somehow. In retrospect, maybe it was too childish or unprofessional? Things are usually pretty informal and I've done similar things for different holidays before (ex. sent him a "Luck of the Irish" scratch ticket for St. Patty's Day) which he did enjoy so I was thinking it would be more along the lines of fun rather than immature. Obviously I misjudged the situation though.

Any words of wisdom? Should I go back and apologize or just carry on with my day and stick with just a happy birthday for next year?
« Last Edit: March 26, 2013, 05:44:17 PM by oopsie »

LazyDaisy

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Re: Birthday Balloon Goes Bust
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2013, 12:05:29 PM »
I think what he did was somewhat rude. First, in the course of what I'm assuming is a non-related conversation he throws out there that it's his birthday, you then feel obligated to acknowledge it in some way, and then he gets annoyed that you did? What?! People who mention their birthday are fishing for attention; they can't then get upset when they receive it. Whenever I encounter the people who say, "I shouldn't have mentioned it," I'm so tempted to just agree with them without apology, "You're right, you shouldn't have. Live and learn." But that might be rude.

I think you were fine. Just carry on and forget about it next year.
"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools." Douglas Adams

Surianne

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Re: Birthday Balloon Goes Bust
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2013, 12:25:56 PM »
I would have felt pretty awkward at receiving a balloon and cupcake, specially purchased, as a client.  I can see how he didn't know how to handle it and why it made him uncomfortable.  But I think the best you can do now is to completely ignore it -- apologizing or bringing it up again would just make him feel more on the spot.

First, in the course of what I'm assuming is a non-related conversation he throws out there that it's his birthday, you then feel obligated to acknowledge it in some way, and then he gets annoyed that you did? What?! People who mention their birthday are fishing for attention; they can't then get upset when they receive it.

This seems really bizarre to me.  I don't see anything in the OP's story that makes him sound like he was fishing for attention.  Birthdays come up all the time in normal conversations with people I work with -- if I ask "Anything fun planned for tonight?" someone might say "My husband's taking me out, it's my birthday" or "The kids are visiting for my birthday" or something similar.  It's just a part of normal conversation. 

I think you're making a lot of unusual assumptions here.  The normal response to "It's my birthday" is "Happy birthday" and moving on, not any sort of extraordinary attention.

LazyDaisy

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Re: Birthday Balloon Goes Bust
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2013, 12:31:04 PM »
I would have felt pretty awkward at receiving a balloon and cupcake, specially purchased, as a client.  I can see how he didn't know how to handle it and why it made him uncomfortable.  But I think the best you can do now is to completely ignore it -- apologizing or bringing it up again would just make him feel more on the spot.

First, in the course of what I'm assuming is a non-related conversation he throws out there that it's his birthday, you then feel obligated to acknowledge it in some way, and then he gets annoyed that you did? What?! People who mention their birthday are fishing for attention; they can't then get upset when they receive it.

This seems really bizarre to me.  I don't see anything in the OP's story that makes him sound like he was fishing for attention.  Birthdays come up all the time in normal conversations with people I work with -- if I ask "Anything fun planned for tonight?" someone might say "My husband's taking me out, it's my birthday" or "The kids are visiting for my birthday" or something similar.  It's just a part of normal conversation. 

I think you're making a lot of unusual assumptions here.  The normal response to "It's my birthday" is "Happy birthday" and moving on, not any sort of extraordinary attention.
I disagree. Adding in "it's my birthday" is actually fishing for a response. People who don't want their birthday acknowledged, such as the OP's situation, would just say, "My husband's taking me out," or "The kids are visiting." No need to include the birthday part at all.

Edited to add: I say this as someone who doesn't like my birthday acknowledged except by immediate family or close friends. If anyone asks me what my plans for the weekend are, I won't be adding in "it's my birthday" and then get upset when the other person gets me a card, treat, balloon or silly hat.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2013, 12:35:35 PM by LazyDaisy »
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25wishes

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Re: Birthday Balloon Goes Bust
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2013, 12:32:55 PM »
I would have said, "It made me happy to do something nice for you. " And smiled.

Two Ravens

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Re: Birthday Balloon Goes Bust
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2013, 12:45:14 PM »
I think the balloon may have been a bit over the top for him, since now everyone would be aware it was his birthday, and he's have to bring it out to his car to get it home. He was probably not looking for any attention other than a "Happy Birthday."

But you did have good intentions, so don't beat yourself up about it, OP.

nyoprinces

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Re: Birthday Balloon Goes Bust
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2013, 02:13:45 PM »
Did you buy other people scratch tickets for St. Patricks Day? Do you do birthday balloons for anyone else? He may be feeling uncomfortably singled out.

jmarvellous

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Re: Birthday Balloon Goes Bust
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2013, 02:32:56 PM »
Did you buy other people scratch tickets for St. Patricks Day? Do you do birthday balloons for anyone else? He may be feeling uncomfortably singled out.

Agreed. I like sharing in my colleagues' joy over a special occasion in their lives, but I don't know about singling them out in a way that begs others' attention.
I disagree with PPs who say that letting people know it is your birthday means you have to be comfortable with whatever they decide is the right way to celebrate it. I shared my birthday so I could pick a treat, provided by the office for anyone who shares his/her birthday, with my colleagues who need any excuse to take a 10-minute break. That doesn't mean I would be OK with balloons at my desk on the actual day -- in fact, I'd feel it was way over the top.

CreteGirl

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Re: Birthday Balloon Goes Bust
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2013, 02:36:39 PM »
I think your intentions were good, but the balloon was too much, especially for a client.  He also may feel that you think he was fishing for something more than a "happy birthday", and feel embarrassed.

I don't think you should say anything to him about it.  Just file this away for future reference.

SleepyKitty

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Re: Birthday Balloon Goes Bust
« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2013, 02:42:00 PM »
I see a few things at play here.

First, I don't think mentioning a birthday is at all a play for attention. It's just something happening, and I agree with the PP's that the correct response is just 'Happy Birthday' and then move on. I think it's actually a little unkind to suggest that just saying the words "It's my birthday today" is somehow a bid for attention that obligates a response. It's a pretty normal social convention to mention interesting but casual things that are happening to you when someone asks how you are or what you're up to.

Secondly, why you went out seems like important context to me. Did you leave the office specifically to go out and purchase a balloon and cupcake, or did you have to go out anyway and just grabbed them? Making a specific trip out to buy something - even something small - and then seeking that person out to give it to them implies a level of closeness that a client/coworker relationship doesn't seem to have. I would do that for a close friend or family member, but not for a casual friend or coworker. However, if I was already at the store and I knew I'd be seeing someone later, I might grab something handy for someone I wasn't so close to.

I can see a coworker being a little surprised and feeling awkward about receiving something you make a special trip out for if that person doesn't perceive your relationship as close. Especially the balloon, I have to add. I may love a good balloon, but not at work - then you have to figure out what to do with it, and stuff it in the car if you're driving home. A scratch-off ticket is cheap, casual, and unobtrusive, but a birthday balloon is somewhat less so.

I definitely wouldn't apologize, though. That's just making it into a bigger deal than it needs to be. You weren't rude, after all. Just carry on and maybe stick to a simple scratch-off next year.

Hmmmmm

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Re: Birthday Balloon Goes Bust
« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2013, 02:50:11 PM »
I think your intentions were good, but the balloon was too much, especially for a client.  He also may feel that you think he was fishing for something more than a "happy birthday", and feel embarrassed.

I don't think you should say anything to him about it.  Just file this away for future reference.

I agree with this.  I'm not big on having my birthday acknowledged at work. I might mention to someone that I'm talking to on the phone and do not expect to see rest of the day that "I'm taking longer lunch today. A friend is taking me to lunch for my birthday." The most of a response I expect is "Happy Birthday" or "I hope you have a nice day."

Having that person arrive at my office with a cupcake would put a smile on my face because a cupcake is easily hidden. A balloon on the other hand shouts to everyone near me that "It's my birthday!" And then you have to either leave it up until it deflates, pop it, or drag it home. 

oopsie

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Re: Birthday Balloon Goes Bust
« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2013, 02:51:40 PM »
Did you buy other people scratch tickets for St. Patricks Day? Do you do birthday balloons for anyone else? He may be feeling uncomfortably singled out.

Agreed. I like sharing in my colleagues' joy over a special occasion in their lives, but I don't know about singling them out in a way that begs others' attention.
I disagree with PPs who say that letting people know it is your birthday means you have to be comfortable with whatever they decide is the right way to celebrate it. I shared my birthday so I could pick a treat, provided by the office for anyone who shares his/her birthday, with my colleagues who need any excuse to take a 10-minute break. That doesn't mean I would be OK with balloons at my desk on the actual day -- in fact, I'd feel it was way over the top.

Yes, I realize that it was a bad decision.  :-[

Birthdays can be a sensitive subject for some people, my gesture was over the top and obviously not appreciated. I'm not debating that.

Regardless, I do like to do whatever I can to make my clients feel appreciated and special. I send them housewarming gifts, thank you cards & gifts, small gifts for holidays, etc. If a client is having a baby, I will send a card and flowers. If they are having a birthday (and I know about it) I would deliver flowers (did this just on the weekend in fact and it went over well!) I thought a balloon and cupcake would be more appropriate than flowers because he is a guy. Obviously this is a know your audience kind of thing. I thought I did but clearly I didn't.

oopsie

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Re: Birthday Balloon Goes Bust
« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2013, 02:57:31 PM »
Secondly, why you went out seems like important context to me. Did you leave the office specifically to go out and purchase a balloon and cupcake, or did you have to go out anyway and just grabbed them? Making a specific trip out to buy something - even something small - and then seeking that person out to give it to them implies a level of closeness that a client/coworker relationship doesn't seem to have. I would do that for a close friend or family member, but not for a casual friend or coworker. However, if I was already at the store and I knew I'd be seeing someone later, I might grab something handy for someone I wasn't so close to.

I was at his business on business. I left. I had to return to his business to put up a sign so I picked up the balloon and cupcake on my way back. I did not make a special trip but that doesn't mean that I wouldn't have. Again, I was only doing it to make a client feel appreciated as I do for all my other clients.

LazyDaisy

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Re: Birthday Balloon Goes Bust
« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2013, 03:22:00 PM »
Did you buy other people scratch tickets for St. Patricks Day? Do you do birthday balloons for anyone else? He may be feeling uncomfortably singled out.

Agreed. I like sharing in my colleagues' joy over a special occasion in their lives, but I don't know about singling them out in a way that begs others' attention.
I disagree with PPs who say that letting people know it is your birthday means you have to be comfortable with whatever they decide is the right way to celebrate it. I shared my birthday so I could pick a treat, provided by the office for anyone who shares his/her birthday, with my colleagues who need any excuse to take a 10-minute break. That doesn't mean I would be OK with balloons at my desk on the actual day -- in fact, I'd feel it was way over the top.
You can't really dictate how people are to acknowledge your birthday anymore than you can tell them what gift they need to get you. According to etiquette, the only response for a gift is a "thank you" with no indication that you hate it -- be it balloons, cupcake, or ugly sweater 3 sizes too large. The OP's client failed because he was not gracious in accepting a gift. And the same as for an ugly sweater, just quietly discard what you don't like without making it obvious.

I'm surprised by those that don't think telling people it's your birthday is a bid for attention. If the response was "oh" or "ok" or nothing, the same as I would respond to someone telling me they are having lunch, or the sun is shining, would you be happy with that? If not, and you expect more, then in fact you do want attention for your special occasion, but you can't dictate to others what their acceptable reaction or offering is.
"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools." Douglas Adams

Surianne

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Re: Birthday Balloon Goes Bust
« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2013, 03:47:33 PM »
I'm surprised by those that don't think telling people it's your birthday is a bid for attention. If the response was "oh" or "ok" or nothing, the same as I would respond to someone telling me they are having lunch, or the sun is shining, would you be happy with that?

I'm still not understanding what attention, exactly, you think we expect.  It's just the same as if I were to mention anything else in my life: "I'm going out to dinner tonight" without "because it's my birthday" would still be met with "Have fun!" or "Where are you dining?" or something similar.  A person saying "Oh" or "Ok" dismissively would be a little odd, if we were in the middle of conversation.  There's no need to acknowledge the birthday specifically, though.  Why would there be?