On one hand, I'm a big fan of the gift card. I never know what to buy people, so gift cards always seem like a good option. On the other hand, gift cards can be frustrating, particularly if I want to get one to a particular local business and not just a major chain. A lot of sites don't offer gift cards, and if they do, you have to actually go into the shop to purchase one - that's a pain when your family is spread all over the country. And it's a pain for recipients to have to keep track of little gift certificates or plastic cards.
Thankfully, GIftRocket has rebooted the whole process, with a really innovative solution that should please merchants, gift-givers, and recipients alike.
GiftRocket works as a peer-to-peer gift card, bypassing the merchant entirely. You can send a gift card via the startup's website. It uses Yelp as its directory of merchants, so you can create a gift card to use any store, restaurant, bar, hotel, and so on that's listed in that database. (That's pretty much every business.)
The recipient of the card will receive a message notifying them of the gift, and when they arrive at the location, they can follow the link in the email, allow their phone to confirm their geo-location, and presto - the money is transferred to them, via PayPal.
Sending and receiving a gift via GiftRocket is incredibly easy, and ease-of-use is one of the main things that the company is trying to address. But there are other benefits too: there's no card or certificate to carry around; there's no leftover change on the card; there's no expiration date.
There is, however, a fee to send a card this way - $1 plus 5% of the total of the card. The works out to $2 for a $20 gift card. While most "traditional" gift cards are free, it's worth paying a little bit extra in order to have the convenience of GiftRocket and the completely open selection of merchants where cards can be redeemed.
Giftrocket thinks this will be a boon for small businesses too, most of which don't have gift card programs. Those can cost businesses a significant amount of money, and since Giftrocket actually doesn't require merchants' participation, there are no set-up fees. There's just a snippet of code that, should they decide to do so, businesses can add to their websites to let customers know that their gift cards are "Powered by GiftRocket."