Thursday, January 20, 2011

Planning for Valentine's Day

This evening I got an email from Caffe Habitu, a small chain of coffee shops and restaurants in Hong Kong. To promote their Valentine's Day dinner, there's a prize draw for a free meal on Valentine's Day, for the rest of your life. The only catch, if you don't feel very romantic about all of this, is that you only enter the draw for the prize if you propose while you're at dinner.

(And, I suppose, if she accepts. It's going to be quite awkward if you feel you have to spend the rest of your life in the company of a woman who's turned you down, just because you're getting a potato gratin gratis.1)

Somehow, this doesn't seem the most romantic of gestures. It's quite generous of Caffe Habitu (unless they're expecting dozens of couples to attend and all join in, in which case maybe they're calculating that after a few years, the married couple will be sick of their reasonably priced Italian cuisine and won't be going out on Valentine's Day ever again). But it's also a bit mean of them. Every man going to Caffe Habitu with his other half in tow will be thinking that he's meant to be proposing, just because somebody with a nit of marketing nous thought they'd co-opt a day of the year to sell more pasta? That's not really on.

The women, meanwhile, won't appreciate this. If their chap buys them dinner, they'll be thinking he's a cheapskate for not buying a ring too. If he proposes, they'll suspect it's only because he fancies a free meal for life. And if they suggest that they go Dutch on the bill ... well, that's not going to wash. If they don't take them to Habitu, maybe the girl will think that the chap thinks there's no mileage in the relationship anyway; clearly no point trying to win meals for the rest of the time they're together, if in six months' time they'll both be down Mes Amis, trying to avoid eye contact with one another as they accidentally chat up the same tranvestite.

That's never happened to me.

I always stare at my exes to put them off if they're trying to ruin my chances with a transvestite.

So nobody will be enjoying their meal, which I suspect is actually the reason behind it. Perhaps (and I'm reaching here, but stop me if I become implausible) the mastermind of this Valentine's Day competition is enraged, hateful and alone, and figures there could be no better wheeze, come February 14th, than to spread dissent and rage amongst some of the smug couples out there. Given the negative potential of this whole exercise, I don't believe it's really inspired by somebody who thinks marriage is a Good Thing, apart from as a chance to leverage higher customer repeat frequency, or optimise the churn factor on the weekend crowd, or (veers off into marketing speak and never returns).

Maybe not. Maybe it's a perfectly happy person. But what about all the miserable sods with nobody to propose to? Shouldn't Habitu be doing something to cheer them up? And what about those of us already committed to their life partners, but tragically denied the chance of a free dinner every year because of that little matter of a ring on her finger?2

Perhaps it's a lovely, thoughtful gesture by Habitu. Perhaps I'm just bitter because I can't believe in Valentine's Day, ever since the year my mother sent me a card (no, this isn't about to turn into some horrible confession) and then three months later told me she'd done it because she thought I'd need cheering up "because I wasn't going to get a card from anyone". Cheers Ma. I think you haven't finished stamping on my self-esteem there.

Anyway, twenty five days to go. If I can just convince everyone else not to go, and get my fiancee to conceal her ring, the free dinners WILL BE MINE.

1 I could be construed as being sexist for suggesting only heterosexual men and lesbians get to pop the question. I'm just being a traditionalist. If it were February 29th next year, I wouldn't say a word about women getting down on bended knee to commence their matrimonial bliss.
2 Some male chauvinist pig should put their money where their mouth is, put their hand up and say that you get married so you get dinner cooked for you every night, not just on Valentine's Day. I'm not going to. I'm not as stupid as I might appear.


Minnie Bus said...

As they say, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? I guess that makes your lady-friend a cow. And you are a meal. Or she is. Well she is a dish. Or you're free. Or at least quite cheap. Or something like that.

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