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How Five “You Must Be Kidding Me” Experiences Became Tango Card

“Why did you start Tango Card?” I get this question a lot and I love it. I started Tango Card because of the gift card. It’s the most loved and most requested gift and rewards product in history, and at the same time, the most maligned and complained about product out there. How could this be? In the quest to answer this question, I figured out exactly why this huge disparity exists and – more importantly – how to fix it.  And, because it’s no fun to sit around and wait for someone else to make things better decided to commit my life and this company to create the perfect gift card.  Here are the five “you must be kidding me” moments during my quest.

You must be kidding me #1 – toilet training  

After I left my last company, I had some time to clean up my desk, recycle a bunch of stuff, and throw a few things away. As I did this, I found gift card after gift card after gift card.  Some were still inside thank you cards while others were stuffed between old papers. Most were plastic and one even like some official paper stock certificate. Ultimately, I found almost $500 worth of gift cards and had a field day.  In the next hour, I spend almost every penny on books, clothes, a great chef’s knife, and games.  It was a blast. But I was horrified – had I not done this extensive cleanup, I would never have used this value – and let’s be clear this is A LOT of money and it was about to be flushed down the toilet.  My reaction – this problem can be solved today with existing technology. And the fact that this has been solved said a lot more about the state of the industry.

You must be kidding me #2 – I thought usury was illegal

A bunch of friends and I pooled our funds to get a gift card for a friend of ours. I picked the short straw, and had to drive to the store to buy a $25 gift card.  So I picked out the card and went to pay. Unfortunately, the $25 gift card actually cost $29. Fortunately, I had also brought my credit card so I could cover the additional 16% – YES 16% – cost of the gift card.  My reaction – this is terrible product design.  And at a deeper level, pure frustration – it was 100% clear to me that the incentives of the store, the gift card issuer, and me – the gift giver – were just hugely misaligned. And I’m a big believer in aligning incentives!

You must be kidding me #3 – protect me from myself 

I live in West Seattle and there are a few restaurants here I LOVE.  Friends know this so they buy me gift cards to these places so I can upgrade my meal and my wine selection. 99% of the time I go to these restaurants, however, I forget to bring the gift card with me.  I always remember it, it’s just that I don’t remember it until I’m parking outside and my excitement to run in and enjoy has just peaked.  I’m not alone in this. This happens thousands of times every day, and given what I do, I now get tweets from friends weekly who relay similar stories. (Fortunately, Tango Card to the rescue today.) My reaction is simple: just put it on my phone. I no longer have to remember. Solved, done, game over.

You must be kidding me #4 – you want me to do what

At my companies, we’ve always been big users of cloud platforms – Salesforce for CRM, platforms like Zendesk for customer support, etc…  We use these cloud solutions for everything. We live inside of them every day, we track, we manage, we report, but we always do everything inside the app and in the cloud.  EXCEPT GIFT CARDS. Fail.  When we want to thank a customer for attending a webinar, we drive to the store, get a gift card, put it in an envelope and mail it.  This takes forever, costs, and ton, and is completely untrackable.  This applies for our holiday gift cards and our customer service make it right campaign. My reaction – ok, this problem is really hard to solve, but this can absolutely be solved today with the right technology and the right team.     

You must be kidding me #final straw – AKA the twillinger effect

I talked to a lot of companies in the industry in an effort to really understand the space and also to know where things were headed. Not everyone in the industry looked the same, but they sure sounded the same.  Everyone was able to talk about breakage (unused value), lift (how much more a ‘user’ spends when they have a gift card), exclusive relationships, the next great conference,  and discounts.  But a precious few people talked about the customer, talked about making better products, and most interesting to me – fixing the huge huge problems in the industry. 

For those that know me, they know that the only articles of clothing I really ever think about are my shoes so I picked this image.  So, here we are Tango Card – at the start line of a new era in gift cards. We’ve set out to make the perfect gift card. A gift card that makes the person you buy it for smile and makes you a hero. We’re dedicated to turning the “you must be kidding me problems” above into “wow, these gift cards are awesome” reaction.  We’re bringing a ton product thought and design, even more technology – great developers, cloud apps, and mobile to the table.  And we’re really bringing it with customer service orientation and great attitudes. 

We’ll know we’ve accomplished our goal when gift cards are not only the $200 billion industry they are on track to become but ALSO the most respected product for consumers and enterprise customers.

8 Responses to “How Five “You Must Be Kidding Me” Experiences Became Tango Card”

  1. Tiffany Sparks November 26, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    Thank goodness for the creation of Tango Card 🙂 I love it. Perfect for any holiday.

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