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“Uh Facebook Gift Card?”, the Jamba Juice cashier said with a twang. “I don’t even know what that is.” But that didn’t stop her from ringing up my purchase with Facebook’s invasion of brick-and-mortar commerce. Facebook announced the card last month, and today I was one of the first to try it out. Here’s how it felt to swipe Facebook’s hopeful disruptor of the $100 billion US gift card market.
With what I’d call a “material hangover” from a Saturday night of stuffy wine bars and loose dance floors, my body awoke with a forceful request for something healthy. Luckily, I’d just received a Facebook Gift Card with a $10 balance for Jamba Juice from the Director of Facebook Gifts, Lee Linden. The co-founder and CEO of mobile gifting app Karma that Facebook acquired the day of its IPO, Linden wanted me to give the card a shot.
The Facebook Gift Card is designed to be a single slice of plastic that holds credits to multiple retail stores. Friends (who’ve already received the Gift Card slow roll-out) can go to your wall or the ‘Birthdays and Celebrations’ sidebar and select to send you $3 to $100 at one of the initial partners Target, Sephora, Olive Garden, or Jamba Juice. Rather than one big balance to spend at any of the stores, your balances at each business are kept separate.
Facebook is looking to earn a revenue share by making brick-and-mortar stores’ products and services easily giftable between friends. You might not think to go to OliveGarden.com and buy someone a gift card, and getting their address would be a pain. Facebook makes discovery and delivery of gifts easier through suggestions of what to buy people. Facebook is where people spend time online, it recommends you buy Gift Card credits for friends on birthdays and other occasions, and collect their addresses for you.
A few weeks ago I got a Facebook notification informing me of the present Lee sent me. A tap on my mobile phone opened a virtual greeting card with a personal message from Lee, a glossy photo of a Jamba Juice smoothie, and mailing address entry form for where Facebook should send my card. Soon my sparkly blue, graph diagram-covered pre-paid Discover card arrived in the mail, wrapped within some surprising fine print I’ll get to later.