New Feature - Gift Certificates!




  • stonehillcollectibles

    On another note... ez,  I understand what you feel and are saying about assessing dormancy fees. However, in some states, if the GC is not used or has a remaining balance at expiration, then the monies escheat to the state. That means you'd have to cough up the $$$ balance to send to the state. Just something to think about.

  • lightningwear

    Stone Hill - Well, if Tomas wanted to add it, dormancy could be "collected" by simply checking to make sure that the certificate balance had not changed for a period of not less than 12 months (but needing to be customized because CA, for instance, specifies 24 months)  and then simply reducing the certificate balance by a customizable $X amount per month (again, for example, the legal limit in CA is $1/mo.)

    After all, you don't need to  "collect" the fees -- you already have them in your pocket from when the cert was bought. You're just gradually reducing the "gotcha" potential of an old cert in the future.

  • lightningwear

    Tomas - speaking of the future "gotcha" value of Gift Certificates, have you added a master display of outstanding gift card obligations/value anywhere? If I was, say, a small drop-shipper, I'd REALLY want to know that I had $6,000 obligated in unclaimed gift card purchases  

  • ezgrabs

    @ lightning, good point. I've been pondering how I will handle the accounting aspect of this since it was announced.


    @ stonehill, I didn't know that. I don't think Texas has that law. I was thinking once the GC is used or expired, I'd just consider it as profit. We'll see, I may actually setup a separate bank account just to hold GC monies until they are used. (Interest bearing of course)

  • stonehillcollectibles

    @ lightning.... Tomas has the master display in place for us. It's the active and inactive Gift Certificates tabs... same place you activate and create your GC settings. I had to create a dummy GC to get my sample image. It's under inactive now and shows the following column headers:

    Code  - Purchased Date - Original Amount  - Balance  - Expires On

     - # Times Used

    However...  Something I have been thinking about. I would like the ability to send a reminder email to a GC recipient who either has not used their GC or who has a balance remaining.   Tomas.... is there any chance of having the recipient email addresses added to what's currently showing in Admin? Or is that info in a list somewhere else that I haven't looked yet?????   Right now the only way I see to access the recipient email addy is to click on the edit icon for an individual GC.

  • stonehillcollectibles

    One thing I would like to do... is toot my good friend Jennifers horn. She has done an amazing job bringing some real style and professionalism to Gift Certificates on my site (and on my husbands HW site, too). For those of you struggling with this and how it displays on your site, I can't recommend her highly enough. Here's what she's done for me:

    1. She's customized the Gift Certificates form to include my own personal text and a sample GC image to the right of the form:
    2. Since I also set up a category for Gift Certificates, she modified that category to remove Featured Products at the bottom. My category description includes a click thru link the the GC form for purchasing a gift certificate (I wanted to cover all the bases when I did this. I know I check a sites categories for a GC when I'm shopping for one... so it seemed like a good move):
    3. She also added a clickable graphic just below my categories list... which now displays on all pages on my site. The graphic reads "Gift Certificate - Purchases & Balance Inquiries". I didn't want a customer wondering what their GC balance was having any problems knowing where to check. You can see it on the left from either of the above links.

    You don't need to struggle with this... Jennifer is very VERY good and easy to work with.

    Jennifer can be contacted thru her website:

  • Joe Friday

    You know, I don't want to throw a fly in the ointment here, but in looking over the various state laws, this gift certificate thing is a lot more complicated that it first appears.  I did put them up on the site when Tomas announced their availability, but there are some consumer protection laws in many states that are in conflict with this program.  I really believe we need some legal guidance here to make sure that we don't get into any hot water on these things.  I believe we are playing with fire and I don't want to get burned.


  • stonehillcollectibles

    Joe... what exactly are you seeing that's in conflict with any state laws? As long as you give it at least a 5 year life, and are also aware of and comply with whatever the law is for your own state, you should not have any problems. Conversely, if you perceive that much potential for problems, you have the option of not implementing Gift Certificates for your store.

  • Joe Friday


    Every state seems to have different laws.  In Florida it is unlawful to even have an expiration date and we are subject to a fine or damages for even having an expiration date on a gift certificate.  In other states, it must be stated that the gift certificate is valid for merchandise only.  In North Carolina is must say not valid in North Carolina or you have to comply with their laws.  Other states require you to turn the money over to them if the gift certificate is not redeemed. It gets complicated and I believe we need some solid legal advice here.

    I haven't gone through every state, but this is not as easy as it looks and I don't want to be in a position of not complying with some state law when someone in some state buys one of our gift certificates and decides to look up the law in their state and find out that we do not comply for one reason or another.

    Florida called this a deceptive business practice.   Here is part of  their text:

    Fla. Stat. §501.95
    A gift certificate or credit memo sold or issued for consideration in this state may not have an expiration date, expiration period. However, a gift certificate may have an expiration date of not less than three years if it is provided as a charitable contribution when no consideration is given to the issuer by the consumer, or not less than one year if it is provided as a benefit pursuant to an employee-incentive program, consumer-loyalty program, or promotional program when no consideration is given to the issuer by the consumer, and the expiration date is prominently disclosed in writing to the consumer at the time it is provided. In addition, a gift certificate may have an expiration date if it is provided as part of a larger package related to a convention, conference, vacation, or sporting or fine arts event having a limited duration so long as the majority of the value paid by the recipient is attributable to the convention, conference, vacation, or event. An issuer may honor a gift certificate that has expired on or before the effective date of this act


    Multiply this by 50 states and you can see that there are a lot of requirements that must be stated upfront to anyone that purchases a gift certificate.





  • stonehillcollectibles

    If it's that big a concern for you, then don't activate Gift Certificates in your store. For my store, I need to ensure I comply with Federal laws and Texas state laws. I can do that and don't forsee any problems. The feature is optional so each store owner can make their own informed decisions about implementation.

  • Joe Friday

    Here is a good reference point for the gift certificate regulations for all 50 states:



  • girlshorseclothes

    OMG, I totally want mine set up like yours Shirley, AND, I want a marketing email sent out just like yours too.   Did Jennifer do that too?  Unfortunatly, Im using Mail Chimp now, and I'm sure the coding is not the same, but maybe it wont be too far off.

    Your email is awesome.   I totally cringe at making up those emails... its always SUCH a PITA for me, so I send maybe 3 a year... MAYBE.   Setting one up just goes immediately into my "things to procrastinate" file.     (Which my brain has plenty of room to keep shoving things into!)


  • ezgrabs

    @ amazingkeys, glad I live in Texas and not Florida. 

  • girlshorseclothes

    I contacted Jennifer and asked her to give me "The Shirley".  :))

  • girlshorseclothes

    BTW, just curious... does the store owner get a notification when someone buys a gift certificate?  

  • bisidesigns

    Now that is funny! Give me the Shirley! Hah!

    I just want to throw out the thought on the laws governing gift certificates. Logic to me (may not be the law though) says that if your biz is in FL, you go by FL and Federal laws. But... I don't deal with them so... I could be wrong.

    I agree with the idea that if you are really scared of the laws, don't offer gift certificates.


    Bisi Designs - Professional Website Design

  • Tomas

    For further clarification, coupon codes can not be used on Gift Certificates. They are ignored in the order total and subtotal when figuring coupon discounts.

    "BTW, just curious... does the store owner get a notification when someone buys a gift certificate?  "

    It's in the new order notification just like any product purchased. I don't think there's any reason to send a separate email.

  • Tomas

    I should expand that further.. :)

    Coupon discounts can not be applied to Gift Certificates that are being purchased

    Coupon discounts can be used along with Gift Certificates that are being redeemed

  • stonehillcollectibles

    LOL....  "the Shirley"...  So does that make me minor famous? ....or just infamous???

    I'm flattered Cindy! Actually what you did is what got me started. I made a GC category and sort of liked the way it looked... but it had junk down at the bottom that I had no clue how to get rid of, it didn't have the form, and I wanted to have all that verbiage along with the form. The only ONLY way to make it happen the right way was to call my GURU, Jennifer! She's totally a miracle worker. The graphic below the categories was completely her idea and OMG, I love it!   And customers who get a GC will know exactly where to look to check their balance!    

    I did the email myself... and believe me, it was horrible painful. I'm ashamed to say it's the first one I've sent out in over a year... cause I never know what to say. But announcing GC's was a natural. Feel free to totally steal mine if'n you'd like (you'll need your own graphics, tho... I actually bought those)!!

    Tomas... that's awesome about discount coupons and Gift Certificates!!  I just need to remember to revise the verbiage on my coupons to include that info.

  • lightningwear

    Amazing / Joe,

    You are only subject to the laws of your OWN state regarding the selling of gift certificates, and the more general Federal law. Essentially, this simply means that you need to follow the law in your own state, as all state laws are either the same as, or more restrictive than federal law.

    You don't live or operate a business in other states, so their laws do not apply to you and have no authority over you.


    Caveat: That would be assuming that you are a small enough business to NOT have a distribution center or a store in a different state as well, which would cause you to have a "substantial business interest" in the other state, which would cause you to be subject to the 2nd state's (3rd, 4th) states laws. So, if you're an online retailer like Amazon, which has multiple distribution centers across the country, things can indeed get a bit complicated. But even Amazon is only subject to the laws of the specific states they're in.

    The other situation would be if you were Incorporated (say in Delaware) but operating as a "foreign" corporation in North Carolina: Then DE's and NC's laws would apply. States call corporations "foreign" if they're incorporated in a different state, but have filed with a state (usually the one they're physically doing business in) for formal state recognition as a corporation in that state as well. This gives them the ability to start a lawsuit in that state's courts.

  • girlshorseclothes

    Yep, being treated the same as any new order is PERFECT!  I just didnt know that they would be part of the order system.     PERFECT!  :))

  • Joe Friday


    I think you have hit the nail on the head and for us, we will not be able to offer the gift certificates, at this time, because we have multi-state distribution centers, call centers and shipping facilities that are left over from when we actually manufactured the items that we sell.  We share some of  these facilities with the company that spun off from us in 2007. That company made a business decision not to sell direct to consumer and that left us with the internet business which was a very small part of the total business.

    The Gift Certificate program is a good idea and I wish we could offer it to our customers.


  • 405media

    No expiration=no problems... If you try to keep people from their money they paid for, then you have problems. Ive used gift certificates with many of my customers for years without problems.

  • Traci Tran

    Can we make the Gift Certificates a Featured item on our Home Page?

    FYI on exp dates -  I believe in California we are not allowed to set an exp date. For more info on Gift Certificate/Gift Card Laws for each state, see here = 

  • girlshorseclothes

    Babyface... you could talk about it all  you want in your Home Page text box... include a link to it, etc.


    Joe... National companies do sell gift certificates, don't they?   I would think you could look at national retailers such as Sears and JC Pennys and copy the verbiage they use when selling gift certificates from their websites.  

    I first thought "who the heck would buy a gift certificate for key cutting."     But, I, myself, actually got a new fob for my car as a present one year.  Id lost both that the dealer gave me, so I was going with out (just using a regular key).  It was a GREAT GIFT to have a fob again!    

  • girlshorseclothes

    Oops, Babyface.. just looked at your site.   I see why you would want it as a featured product.  You could set it up like I did... many posts above.    I also like it on a product page so that it can be displayed as a "other items to consider". 

    Start at my post at Nov-21 2011 15:05. then follow along with what Tomas suggests to remove the price/add to cart. 

  • Joe Friday


    National companies do sell gift certificates.  But those companies are much larger than we are and they have a whole department that handles these types of issues.  Right now, we are not of that size and we just don't have any people sitting around not doing anything that I can put on this.

    It's like the internet sales tax issue that is being batted around.  They are talking about an exemption for those websites that do less than $500,000 a year.  Those that do over that would need to collect and file the sales taxes in all 50 states..  This is going to be a nightmare for us if this is passed and will probably require a staff of at least 2.5 people just to keep up with all of these sales taxes.  

    And on the issue of keys for gifts.......   We have a selection of collector keys that folks tend to give this time of year.  But keyless remotes are our most popular gift item.  It's something that is needed and used on a daily basis.




  • girlshorseclothes

    I guess Im just much  more of an optimist (and, perhaps not a realist)

    Seems to me companies will put out software that will take care of everything for reporting/paying the state taxes.   And, how can it take 2.5 people?  Even if it took a person an entire day to do one state return, and returns are required quarterly, that's less than 1 person.   (And, its not going to take all day to do one).  

    Or, maybe its easier to do whatever you have been doing, then manually break out the spreadsheet by state and apply the necisary formulas...  ... 100 orders a month or 10,000... its all in a spreadsheet or whatever... its just a computer doing the calculations, maybe takes somewhat longer for calculations, but, whatever.    Im sure there is a lot I do not know about it (can't imagine what it would be, but, whatever).


    Right... so Sears had their legal team figure out what wording they need to have.     I figure all you have to do is COPY that wording.   No exp date, and copy the wording.   Basically, the wording says "blah blah blah... except where required by law.    blah blah blah... except where prohibited by law"   with no specifics.       I feel like Ive also seen "according to the laws of your state".   (you deal with it if there a problem comes up, which won't, as long as you do honor the certificates and you never let them expire.)

    There would be an issue if you went bankrupt... where are the gift cert holders in line to get their $ due...   But, it is whatever it is, and you just deal with it when it happens.


    You are obviously a much larger business than most of the businesses here, and larger than Id ever expected.     Again, I realize I don't know all the ins and outs.

  • Joe Friday

    What I believe is going to happen is the payment processors (Paypal, Amazon, Google, etc) will collect and remit the sales taxes, based upon where the buyer is located) for merchants like us.  At least that is what I am hoping will happen.  Amazon seems to be getting set up to do just that.

    If we all have to file this on our own, it's going to be a complete mess.  The sales tax reports are due monthly in many places.  That is 50 chances each month to not get the report in on time.  If you are one day late there is a 25% penalty of the tax due in some states. Miss one month of filing and you could be out of business or so deep in the hole that you can't possibly get out.  Imagine the IRS times 50 and think of the time this is going to involve. Ever get a notice from the IRS when you have done everything right and they can't seem to put the right paperwork in the right file?  It takes days and hours to try to straighten it out even if you are right.    And lets just hope they don't want us to collect county and city sales taxes as well.

    When Amazon gave in to California on this and agreed to start paying sales taxes in 2012 to California that is where the turning point came about.  Unfortunately, it's just a matter of time before they close the sales tax exemption on internet sales. 


  • ezgrabs

    Y'all are getting worked up over nothing. What they have been considering is if an internet company should pay taxes on all transactions. If so, those taxes would be owed to the states you have a physical presence in, or to the federal government. It doesn't matter how many laws California passes about internet transactions. I am not in California, therefore their laws will NEVER apply to me. Therefore I'd never pay California taxes.

    This is why it will never happen. Most consumers are impatient. I myself am VERY impatient. If I have to pay taxes on a transaction on the internet, 90% of the time that would put the product in the price range of a product I can get from the store. I'd rather buy it from the store than wait a week to get a product I bought online. Also you have to consider profit margin. Internet companies typically offer product at lower prices because they get less return when they sell something. Charging taxes on every transaction, and effectively raising prices will put many internet companies out of business. No one wants to do that. It's an idea that has been tossed around a lot, but law makers aren't COMPLETE idiots... though idiots they may be. It would be suicide for any state to pass such a law, and the federal government knows this as well. 

    Besides, if you had to pay the taxes of your state, every company big enough to do so would move to a tax free state.

    We won't even get into the complexities of city level taxes. Here in North Texas 6.25% goes to the state while the city and public transportation each take 1% for a total of 8.25%. There's no way such a law would even be enforceable. 

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