Dear readers, let me share with you my ultimate tale of gift card woe. A few years ago, I somehow won a $1,000 gift card to the Guerlain Spa at the Waldorf-Astoria. Yes, you read correctly, a $1,000 gift card. And while that would buy like eight massages at a typical spa, I figured it would translate to a facial, a massage, and a mineral bath at Guerlain, which, at the time, was the most expensive spa in NYC. Pampering of such epic proportions would require a full day off of work (what, you expected me to go on the weekends with the hoi polloi?), so I waited until what I thought was the perfect time to book an appointment: during my post-Christmas staycation last year*. However, a few months earlier, the company that operated the spa went bankrupt and thus the Guerlain Spa closed, rendering my gift card absolutely worthless. That's right, my $1,000 gift card. (Thus the cardinal rule of gift cards: Spend them immediately!) I fired off a strongly worded email to Spa Chakra Inc., which promptly bounced back to me via MAILER-DAEMON; I stomped around my apartment; I was so stressed out, I had to book another massage just to relieve the tension.
Which brings me to my love-hate relationship with gift cards. (Love is probably too strong a word; maybe mild tolerance would be better.) Yes, gift cards are generally quick and convenient, and when you have to get a gift for someone you don't know very well, hey, everyone loves a Starbucks card! But the downsides tend to outweigh the positives: They're impersonal, they often languish in your wallet, they expire, and if the company goes out of business, you're, to put it bluntly, SOL.
Which is why Giftly just might be the perfect solution to the gift card conundrum. A brand-new site, Giftly lets you create your own virtual gift card for whatever you want—stores, restaurants, bars, ahem, spas, etc. You send it to the recipient via email or Facebook, they register with Giftly and then to redeem it, check in at the location (you can pick up to three) on their smartphone. The recipient pays normally, and then Giftly credits the amount to the recipient's credit card, debit card, or Paypal account. This is awesome because it eliminates the hassle of tracking down separate gift cards for multiple businesses, and you can basically create a gift card for companies that don't even offer them! Added bonus: Even if you don't spend the entire Giftly at each location, you still get credited the full amount, so you don't get stuck carrying around, say, a Pottery Barn gift card with $4.08 left on it. You're also covered if you lose the original email or if the merchant goes out of business (take that, Spa Chakra!). But the best part of sending a Giftly is that you get to create a unique, personal experience for your recipient, evoking that whole "tis better to give than receive" ethos and resulting in what Giftly calls double happiness—joy experienced by both the gifter and the giftee.
And because Giftly is super-duper awesome, they are offering Cheryl Shops readers $5 off your first purchase—you can use this link or use promo code GIFTLYCHERYL. (Side note: Creating a Giftly for $20 or under is free, but fees otherwise range from $2 to 5% of the price, if over $120—regardless, a small sacrifice to the gift-card gods.) Double happiness indeed!
POSTSCRIPT: While researching this story, I discovered that the Guerlain Spa has since reopened at the Waldorf-Astoria under new management. Of course, I threw away my—all together now—$1,000 gift card months ago, not that the spa would necessarily still honor it. Which further proves my point that traditional gift cards are purely bogus!
*Coincidentally, I wouldn't have made it to the appointment anyway, since I got stuck in Chicago during the ol' Snowpocalypse of 2010 and ended up driving back to NY, three days late. Fate, I tell you.