Facebook is expanding its Gift feature to include plastic gift cards that carry balances for multiple stores and restaurants.
The cards only work at four stores for now: Target, Jamba Juice, Sephora and The Olive Garden. So if you've been wondering how to give your little sister a birthday gift that combines fruit smoothies, lip gloss and unlimited breadsticks, this product is for you.
When you buy a card on the social network for a friend, they get a message informing them of the gift right away (great for scrambling at the last minute). The cash amount is loaded on to a plastic card that is delivered in the mail, likely in some sort of paper envelope.
The recipient can then take that physical card into a physical store and buy physical goods. For an Internet company, it's all delightfully old fashioned.
Facebook is entering a crowded field and offers a couple of features to differentiate itself from other gift cards. The gift giver can choose which of the available stores to give money to -- say $5 to cover a drink at Jamba Juice and $20 for home goods at Target. The recipient can monitor the balances on their card from the Facebook app (but they can't move the money between vendors, no matter how much they would rather have mascara than pasta). Any gift amounts they get in the future are automatically added to the same card.