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Thursday 3.07.2013

GiftCards.com Gets Grilled! – An Interview with Thomas Cribbs and Mike Tchirkow

Who’s on the grill today? The Bad Boys of Create-A-Card: Thomas Cribbs, Director of Customer Service and Mike Tchirkow, Fraud Manager.

Create-A-Card is the popular tool on GiftCards.com that allows customers to upload photos to create a custom Visa® gift card or MasterCard® gift card. Cribbs’ team reviews each image to ensure it passes a strict set of guidelines and Tchirkow ensures GiftCards.com as a whole complies with regulations set forth by our partners. Gift Card Girlfriend loves (LOVES!) this service but sometimes gets frustrated by the submission rules. Cribbs and Tchirkow are here to explain.

GCG: I absolutely love Create-A-Card. Custom gift cards are some of the most well-received gifts I give. The “Thank You Coach” gift I put on Pinterest using a Create-A-Card is my most popular pin. So I’m a fan. But I got nervous submitting the photo because the guidelines listed on the submission process are so extensive. Why are the guidelines so strict?

T&M: We have to comply with regulations given to us by our partners. Additionally, we want to ensure the highest level of brand reputation for GiftCards.com. So, obviously, that means rejecting questionable images. But it also means avoiding photos that identify or promote trademarked brands–logos, slogans, and easily recognizable products.

GCG: That seems like quite a challenge especially since most of the images I would submit have already been taken. It’s less likely that I would pose people for a picture that will go on a gift card. Instead, I would browse through my pictures library to see photos I could use. Those restrictions could turn the photo hunt into a long process and could lead to me getting frustrated and abandoning the idea altogether.

T&M: You can probably use more photos than you realize. Let’s talk in general terms and then go through some specific examples. In general, only submit photos that you’ve taken or have permission to legally use. (No clip art or internet screen grabs will be approved.) Then ask yourself, “Would I show this picture to my grandmother?” If you still think the photo is appropriate, the final test is to evaluate the picture’s composition. If the image implies endorsement, in any way, then it’s not acceptable. There are ways, however, to get around this. So let’s go through some of the specifics.

GCG: Ok, Youth Sports. Create-A-Card is a perfect gift for the coach or team mom at the end of the season. What can we do with all of the team names?

T&M: We used to reject photos with any type of MLB, NHL, NFL etc. logo on them. But we have since clarified this category with our partners and are more liberal when it comes to youth sports photos. When you submit a picture of the team or an individual on the team, the focus is on the child, not the uniform he’s wearing. Most likely these images will be approved.

GCG: That’s great news. What about other logos and brands on apparel?

T&M: Again, look at the composition of the photo. If the brand isn’t the primary focus, then it’s okay. If the image could be construed as an advertisement or an endorsement, then crop it or edit the photo.

GCG: That’s a good point. What can the user do to make images acceptable if there is a problem?

T&M: First of all, remember that the image will be reduced to the size of a gift card. So a brand or logo that is visible on a large scale might not be an issue when it is sized smaller. Secondly, you might be able to crop the photo to ensure the object isn’t a focal point of the picture. And lastly, try photo editing tools to remove the problem.

GCG: The good thing about photo editing for a gift card is that you don’t have to be a graphic artist to do a “good enough” job. The image will be much smaller when it’s transferred to the plastic so nobody will be critiquing your handiwork. There are also some great photo editing tools like PicMonkey.com that can be used for free if you don’t have Photoshop or another graphical tool on your machine. What are other trouble spots for users?

T&M: Disney and Cars. We can’t allow Disney characters on gift cards. It’s okay if your son is wearing a Disney shirt or holding Buzz Lightyear. But he can’t be posing next to Buzz at the Theme park. And cars in photos can also be an issue. Again, the photo composition is critical. Having a car in a photo is okay provided that the emblem is not distinguishable and the car itself isn’t the focus of the picture.

GCG: What if I work for a car dealership and I want to create gift cards for a promotion? Then can I put a picture of a car on the card? Can I put the name of my dealership on the card? What about the name of my bakery or a picture of a new product I invented?

T&M: If you want to print gift cards for a business purpose, then you can work with our Corporate Sales division (known as Wolfe Rewards and Loyalty…or WRL for short). They handle business-to-business gift cards and have more flexibility because we then co-brand the cards and get them approved in larger quantities

GCG: Excellent. So I need to grill the folks at WRL next! What else do I need to know? In looking at the guidelines, most everything else is pretty self-explanatory. No religious groups or political organizations. I get that. Does “Dead Animals” really need to be said?

T&M: You’d be surprised at some of the images people submit. Not showing dead animals sounds odd, but it’s a legitimate issue. We’ve had several requests to print gift cards with images from a successful hunting trip, and it’s just not allowed. We suggest cropping the photo to show the hunter without the kill.

GCG: We’ve addressed the images. What about the text on the card? Same rules apply?

T&M: Yes. No text that conveys the views, opinions, or beliefs of another group. No copyrighted (or potentially copyrighted) terms either. So no, “Just Do It” or “Go Steelers!” (Much as we’d like to print that last one.)

GCG: One thing that sometimes worries me about ordering printed materials online is the fear that the physical printed product won’t look as good as the virtual image I proof online. Can you tell me anything about the proofing process at GiftCards.com?

T&M: Our preview step is very accurate. When you upload an image and then select, “Preview,” you will see exactly how the image will be positioned on the card. In fact, we use the Create-A-Card technology to print our GiftCards.com pre-designed cards. So we also insist that the preview image be as lifelike as possible.

GCG: Now to the most important question of the interview. What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

M: I’m a big watch guy so my best gift was a watch from my wife. But there’s a backstory. Before we got married, I asked Elizabeth to describe her dream engagement ring. After she told me what she’d like, she immediately joked, “If you ever buy me something that nice, I’ll reciprocate and buy you any watch you want.” So I told her I wanted an Omega Speedmaster. That was the last we spoke of it.

Years later, having totally forgotten about the watch deal, I proposed to her with a ring that lived up to the description she provided. Several more years later, I came home from work after a long, stressful day to find a red box sitting on the counter. I opened it up to find the exact watch mentioned all those years ago: an Omega Speedmaster Professional with a hesalite crystal. It has become one of my most prized possessions.

GCG: Thanks so much for the interview. Is there anything else you’d like to add about Create-A-Card?

T&M: Despite the reasons cards can get rejected, we approve and produce thousands of cards a day. Like you’ve experienced, custom gift cards get rave reviews from the people who receive them. They often comment that they will keep the gift card in their wallet long after the money is redeemed.

GCG: I couldn’t agree more. People are amazed when I tell them they can create a gift card using their own photo. And the people who receive them are thrilled. Thanks guys. You’re not so bad after all.

Happy Gift Carding!

~ Gift Card Girlfriend (GCG)

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