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Wrapsacks: Gift bags on the go

Kathryn Miner holds a
Kathryn Miner holds a "Flurries" print sack, which is the most popular Wrapsack offered by her south Spokane business. The gift bags are reusable and each bag can be tracked over the Internet. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Some people save holiday gift wrap, neatly smoothing each sheet before folding it and keeping it safe in a box waiting for the next gift to wrap.

It’s a little easier to save and reuse gift bags – they are sturdier – but then there’s the risk of accidentally giving the bag back to the person who gave it to you.

“That would be considered a gift-giving faux pas,” said Kathryn Miner, who owns Wrapsacks, a Spokane Internet-based company, with her husband, Michael Miner. “Now imagine instead that you can see where your bags are, where they are going, what they are holding and how they are being used.”

Wrapsacks look like any other fabric gift bags in funky designs, but they have a unique feature: Every bag is labeled with a number. When you buy one, you can go to Wrapsacks’ Web site, name your bag and give it a mission or a goal. Then the fun begins.

“Some people make the bag’s goal to travel around the world, or to reach a specific person or a place,” Kathryn Miner said. “Think of it as a message in a bottle you can actually track.”

The only requirement is that the people who receive the Wrapsack go online and update the information as the gift bag’s journey continues.

The business has at least 21,000 registered users, Michael Miner said.

“Some people have one bag, some have 20 or 40 bags. It’s a little difficult to tell exactly how many bags we have out there,” he said. “We do know that most people who register online register more than one bag. One of our top customers has more than 80 bags registered.”

The last three days, more than 40 people have signed up every day, according to the Miners.

On Tuesday afternoon, track-a-sack customers from the Virgin Islands, Brazil, the United States, the United Kingdom and Belgium registered online.

“I consider myself sort of a world citizen,” said Michael Miner, looking at the computer screen. “And the bags are like my little sales reps out there.”

A new feature is Google Maps, which allows a bag tracker to get a visual of how far the bag has traveled. One randomly selected bag has been in several states and across the Atlantic and back a few times.

“I look at the tracking like good karma,” Michael Miner said. “You are giving the bag to someone, and it’s going to continue on and give pleasure to people you don’t even know.”

The Miners started the company five years ago in White Salmon, Wash., and moved it to south Spokane nearly two years ago.

“I’ve always been a fabric girl,” said Kathryn Miner, about coming up with the idea for the gift bag. “And I look at something and try to think of ways in which to make it different and better.”

She carefully crafted the design of the bags to fit standard gifts such as CDs, DVDs and wine bottles.

Her husband came up with the tracking idea. “I think I was driving over the bridge at Hood River and White Salmon when I got the idea,” he said.

The bags are made in Indonesia using biodegradable dyes and old hand-printing techniques.

“The fabric dries in the sun; it makes for very intense colors,” Kathryn Miner said.

And of course, Wrapsacks are environmentally friendly.

“That’s an important personal point to me,” Michael Miner said. “They can be reused many, many times. Maybe, at some point, we’ll have to find a place on the Web site where we can retire them when they are worn out. But we’re not quite there yet.”