The “no vacation policy” is not myth. But it’s also not a perk.
I was at Netflix when we switched to the “no vacation policy” in 2002. It was partly in response to the onerous tracking that would have had to take place under the Sarbanes/Oxley Act. But it was also part of a much bigger, deliberate culture shift that was taking place. Netflix had decided to become a “high performance” culture. The basics of which are “hire the best, pay them extremely well, and treat them like adults.” If you have some time you can read through the culture deck here. The “no vacation policy” tied in directly to the “treat them like adults”. It was an offshoot of a company culture, not glommed on as another perk. The thinking was that if you did indeed hire the best, you wouldn’t have people abusing the policy. And that’s exactly what happened.
But did anyone really use it? Yep.
Not everyone used it to this extent but I knew more than a few people who took a month or more off to travel or visit family. By having this policy, the focus of management on the work, not hours.
Your accounting of Gilt’s implementation sounds like they thought it was a great idea and just added as a perk. They’re not the first to make that mistake and probably not the last.