The Real Reason 7-Eleven Canceled Its Free Slurpee Day This Year

Each year, convenience store chain 7-Eleven celebrates their birthday by offering a free small-sized Slurpee to anyone who walks in the door from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on July 11th — aka 7/11. In their history of the Slurpee, Eater describes the beverage as a fizzy, frozen treat similar to a slushie. They state that on 7-Eleven Day, 7-Eleven stores located throughout the United States can expect to hand out over 9 million free Slurpees total. The drink made its debut in 1966 and was an instant American classic, inspiring the invention of the frozen margarita machine, having a promotional song ("Dance The Slurp") become popular enough to be played on mainstream radio, and scoring the chain a prominent reference on the animated television show The Simpsons (the Squishee).

Mental Floss reports that the drink was invented in the 1950s by Omar Knedlik, who got the idea to create a machine that could freeze soda to a slushy consistency after accidentally leaving some bottles of soda in the freezer at his Dairy Queen store for too long, causing them to begin to crystallize. His customers went wild for the icy drinks, and began requesting the semi-frozen ones specifically over regular soda. Recognizing the popularity of the product, Knedlik developed and built a machine able to replicate the frozen treat, and which he eventually licensed to 7-Eleven. The drink officially became the Slurpee and won a place in the American cultural canon.

7-Eleven Day 2020 is canceled

According to a press release provided to Mashed, this year 7-Eleven has had to cancel the in-store festivities planned for 7-Eleven Day for the first time in almost 20 years. They state that this choice was made in response to the still-looming threat of COVID-19, which has claimed the lives of over 116,000 Americans at the time this article was published (via CDC). Instead of celebrating in 7-Eleven stores, the convenience chain will be sending a coupon for a free medium-sized Slurpee to every account in their 7Rewards app. The coupon will be redeemable for the entire month of July. There will also be special birthday discounts available exclusively through the convenience chain's 7NOW delivery app throughout the month.

In addition to the special deals for customers, 7-Eleven will be donating 1 million meals to Feeding America on July 11th to mark the occasion. Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Marissa Jarratt stated that bringing 9 million people into 7-Eleven locations across the country did not seem like a safe way to celebrate this year, so they instead decided to give back to the communities and neighborhoods they are part of during this uncertain time, when so many are finding themselves in need. Lauren Biedron, the vice president of corporate partnerships at Feeding America, describes the organization as a network of food banks, which is "on the ground addressing the increased need in their communities."