Print 15 comment(s) - last by EricMartello.. on Jan 1 at 5:55 PM

Amazon's new patent on auto-returning gifts could save it millions and save its customers time. Etiquette experts aren't pleased, though.  (Source: 20th Century Fox)
New patent allows you to set gifts from certain individuals to auto-return or auto-screen

Virtually everyone out there has at least one relative that always gets them precisely what they don't want.  For, 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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dear amazon
By AssBall on 12/27/2010 3:59:31 PM , Rating: 2
Can I retroactively send back all of my wtf candy cane, deer, and Christmas tree socks (Why, Aunt Liz.... just WHY?) for money?

I'd be rich.

RE: dear amazon
By Pneumothorax on 12/27/2010 5:48:48 PM , Rating: 4
What about the fruitcake?

RE: dear amazon
By Souka on 12/27/2010 6:37:03 PM , Rating: 4
Yeah, but not only that!
By MrWho on 12/28/2010 7:35:35 AM , Rating: 4
"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"

Bollocks. Of course that is all important, but:

a) It's not just about the loot, but it is also about the loot. When I buy something for someone, I worry about if that person is going to like what I bought. With this, it's one less worry - if they don't like it, they don't get it - even better if they will be able to swap it for something they do like.

b) Took the time to do it - yeah, accessing a web site and browsing the catalog, big freaking time. If they really want to take the time to do it, dress up, get out and go shopping at the mall!

RE: Yeah, but not only that!
By cjohnson2136 on 12/28/2010 9:12:04 AM , Rating: 2
I like the idea of it but correct me if I am wrong, how are they going to implement it? I mean what if they crazy Aunt that gets you crappy gifts really does get you something good one time and she is on your block list and you dont get it. Is there a way for it to notifiy you of what the gift is which would negate the fact that gifts are surprises. I don't know but concept sounds good, practice might be difficult until I saw how it worked.

RE: Yeah, but not only that!
By PrinceGaz on 12/29/2010 11:54:01 AM , Rating: 2
It mentioned that instead of automatically not shipping items from a particular sender, you could opt to screen items first, so presumably you would be emailed of a pending shipment therefore allowing you to choose whether to receive it, or the money instead. That seems like the best of both worlds to me.

Another BS process patent
By ZachDontScare on 12/27/2010 4:41:59 PM , Rating: 2
Its a great idea, dont get me wrong. But I fail to see why this should be considered 'patentable'.

RE: Another BS process patent
By Mk4ever on 12/28/2010 3:48:47 AM , Rating: 5
Patents 101, Chapter 1, Page 1:
Rule 1: Take credit for things other people did, but forgot to take credit for.

Steve Jobs (1955)

Dilbert Did It!
By UserDoesNotExist on 12/27/2010 6:01:33 PM , Rating: 4
Scott Adams is way ahead of the curve on this one:

It's all about the right loot
By Kibbles on 12/27/2010 6:30:59 PM , Rating: 4
The true art of gift giving is lost to this woman...

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.

If the buyer got something the receiver would never want, then the buyer is just as much to blame.

Most of the time, people felt like getting you something out of obligation, yet does not feel like spending time to do it. There's also instances where they got the crappy present, so they give you that, just to give you something. This results in half assed presents like giftcards and crap you don't want in a million years. A bad present you can return, is just about as good as a giftcard IMO.

Awesome presents aren't always expensive, but usually requires a good deal of knowledge of the person you are buying for and some invested time.

I was given the bluray Life collection (I love nature films) and it gave me a better holiday feeling than a $50 BB GC. Even though the collection costs less. Well at least it wasn't something like itunes I guess... cause I don't even own an iPod.

Looks like Amazon
By ShaolinSoccer on 12/28/2010 12:36:40 AM , Rating: 2
Just lost a customer...

I appreciate how my grandmothers think of me and get me anything for Christmas or my birthday whether or not I need it. Some of you people posting comments are disturbed!

RE: Looks like Amazon
By EricMartello on 1/1/2011 5:55:04 PM , Rating: 1
I'm sure Amazon will be crying at their loss until you realize Amazon has the best deal on something you don't need...then what are you gonna do? Stick to your guns and not shop at Amazon to make a point that nobody cares about or save a few bucks and buy that thing you don't need? Don't bother answering we all know what you will do. Thanks for shopping with Amazon.

I Would Think That...
By mmatis on 12/27/2010 6:55:47 PM , Rating: 2
with the country what it is these days, Ms. Post MIGHT be able to find something slightly more lacking in the proprieties of etiquette than this. But then maybe she is just one of our Betters. There seem to be so many of them out there these days...

By abhaxus on 12/27/2010 11:11:37 PM , Rating: 2
I can see the target for something like this is also people who you DO NOT want gifts from. I have a relative that I am not on speaking terms with. He gives me gifts every year. I throw them away. This would be doing everyone a favor.

One question I would have is what they would do about tracking information for the buyer? Do they fake it? Or do they actually tell the buyer that the item was screened/returned. Guess it might be in the actual patent app but I didn't want to go that far.

That's great for gift givers
By ET on 12/28/2010 7:13:22 AM , Rating: 2
First I have to say: patent? Arrggghhh.

Anyway, I think that this kind of things can empower gift givers (the ones who care). Sometimes people give a nice gift but the person who gets it already has something similar, or has another reason not to accept it. This way it's possible to give the gift and the person receiving it could change it to something else before they even got it. The two sides know about it, and it's best for both.

With Aunt Mildred it probably won't work anyway, because she's the kind who'd want to see you wearing that sweater. The people who don't care what you want have ways of forcing their gifts on you.

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner
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