Virtually everyone out there has at least one relative that always gets them precisely what they don’t want. For Amazon.com, America’s largest online retailer, unwanted gifts also add up to extra headaches and costs. After all, while you have to take time to complete the return and wait weeks, Amazon loses money on shipping, loses time, and it also needs staff to process the returns.
A new patent from Amazon gives potential gift recipients the ability to set gifts from certain people to auto-screen or auto-return. That way, when Grandma sends you the latest sweater — it never ships — saving you and Amazon much grief.
The patent [PDF] states:
[User instituted rules might include…] Convert any gift from Aunt Mildred to a gift certificate, but only after checking with me….For example, the user may specify such a rule because the user believes that this potential sender has different tastes than the user.
The clever idea isn’t sitting well with etiquette experts, however. In an interview with The Washington Post, Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of the late etiquette author Emily Post and spokeswoman for the Emily Post Institute, suggests that a boycott of Amazon may be in order if it implements the new feature.
She states, “This idea totally misses the spirit of gift giving. The point of gift giving is to allow someone else to go through that action of buying something for us. Otherwise, giving a gift just becomes another one of the world’s transactions. Gift giving is not just about the loot. It’s about the fact that someone thought to get you something, and took the time to do it. That’s no small thing in this world.”
Investment analysts love the idea, though, even if miss prim-and-proper doesn’t. States Carl Howe, a Yankee Group consumer technology analyst says that 30 percent of gifts are returned each year. He states, “It’s in the millions of dollars, and it might even be billions. If you can get the right gift to a person the first time, this could be a huge cost-saving invention. From a retailer’s perspective, this is like gold.”
He does acknowledge, “This would require a huge shift in consumer behavior, which is always hard to achieve. And there’s really some risk of backlash here.”
If anyone can do it, though, it’s Amazon. The company has always been on the bleeding edge of cost-savings and flipping the traditional shopping model on its head.
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