How Virgin Atlantic's birthday e-mail stabbed me in the heart

Some companies are very fond of sending customers birthday e-mails. Virgin Atlantic, however, sent me one that called me a very sad name and questioned whether my parents had ever wanted me at all.

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Recently, I experienced a birthday. Thank you, you shouldn't have. Oh, wait, you didn't.

Birthdays mean bracing yourself for cards and e-mails from your family, ex-lovers, and people who want something from you. Companies who want you to buy things, for example.

Starbucks always anticipates my birthday early. The company sends me a postcard two weeks before, so that I can be sure to claim my exciting free birthday drink.

Virgin Atlantic, on the other hand, believes it should send me an e-mail. It is all part of Virgin's "we're nicer and cooler than the others" attitude, although it does seem slightly dated.

Some of these corporate birthday e-mails I don't even bother opening. But I like Virgin Atlantic. It's Upper Class pods are delightful. Its staff are human beings from the remaining nice parts of the U.K.. So I opened this one, only to receive a slap in the face and a reason to question my mother.

For it read: "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ERROR. YOUR FRIENDS AT VIRGIN."

Frankly, I have cried a little every day since. Not merely because I am older, but because I had always suspected that I had been a touch unwanted.

My parents had always told me I was incomprehensible and peculiar. They sometimes looked upon me with a pitying expression, the sort given by pedestrians to men who walk down the street and warn of the end of the world.

Now here was Virgin Atlantic, going beyond even Google's ability to snoop around my life, to confirm my most pained fears.

Naturally, I could be overreacting. Perhaps my real birth name, the one on my passport--Krzysztof--somehow slipped its software, leaving it only to belch an error message.

Or perhaps it was something else.

I haven't dared to ask the company. But I write this in the hope that other forlorn children might have received a similar birthday e-mail.

We can work through this together. I know we can. It isn't going to be easy, though. We need to form a support group. Please, um, e-mail me.

 

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