It’s very cold in Chicago now. I know because friends call me all the time to complain. And although my “heartfelt” sympathy can’t warm them, a new service that allows me to buy them drinks with my credit card while I sit in Texas might.
Launched privately in September and publicly on Wednesday, the service, called Give Real, allows people to send virtual drinks to their friends who can translate them into a very real state of inebriation.
It works like this: You, the gift-seeking reader, visit Give Real’s Web site or use the Facebook application to create an account with the essentials, including your credit card information. Then you go to the “Give Drinks” section, charge $50 on your card and enter the e-mail address of the drink recipient, which should be Tyler Metzger.
From there, the gift recipient, who again, should be me, will receive an e-mail saying that a $50 gift is waiting. Then he or she registers a credit card with Give Real, travels to a bar, orders $50 in cheap beer and tequila, and pays the tab with same registered credit card. Within the next two to five business days, while the hangover looms, Give Real credits back the charge and it is taken off the recipient’s credit card.
So there we have it — free, real drinks.
Once a gift has been accepted, it doesn’t expire. If the recipient chooses not to accept it, say because Mr. Daniels has already paid too many visits, the money can be refunded.
The company makes money from a 90-cent transaction fee that its charges for each drink credit purchased. Co-founder Patrick Ledbetter also said the 10-employee start-up will make money by getting paid sponsorships with specific brands of beverages.
Give Real seems like a new, updated way to get drunk. It’s drinking 2.0. It allows someone to say “Let me buy you a drank, shorty,” even when they live thousands of miles apart. It also puts a new spin on the virtual gift games that plague Facebook and other social networking sites. (Yes, I got the pink martini you sent me; how did you know?).
There are drawbacks. In order to use the service, you obviously have to own a credit card, and the place you drink at has to accept credit cards. This might prove difficult for those who enjoy visiting those hole-in-wall bars that are cash only. What kind of gift requires the recipient to enter credit card information? I don’t know about you, but it never feels like I’m getting something for free when I have to get out my plastic.
Also, Give Real can only be used in the United States. So if you want to drink a bitter absinthe in Switzerland or a robust Bordeaux in France, you’ll have to pay for it yourself.
The creators of the service say its mission is to help friends give each other drinks, whether that friend is on the other part of town or in a different state. But really, you can use the gift meant for drinks to buy anything from the more than 500,000 U.S. establishments classified by Visa, Discover, MasterCard and American Express as bar, restaurant or cafe.
That means it could be virgin daiquiris, fried okra or even someone else’s drinks. All the service is doing is transferring a certain amount of money to your friends’ credit card for them to use as they see fit. It’s like a gift card from a bar tied to their credit card.
In the end though, it’s the thought that counts, right? And whether it’s too cold, there are too many relatives around, or you’re simply celebrating that the person who bought you the gift isn’t celebrating with you, there will always be a reason to drink.
See related: Don’t party with your credit card, Gift cards 2008: Everything you need to know