Amazon.com has patented a process that will make sure you don’t get any unwanted gifts through its website. In case you don’t know, Amazon built its reputation as a book shipper but now it’s a hub for sales of all kinds, from tableware to clothing to food to just about anything else.
Here’s how it works: You know that Aunt Eunice is going to buy you another hideous wool sweater and your hints that you’re allergic to wool (and to ugly sweaters) are falling on deaf ears. So you put her name into the “gift interceptor” and tell it to change what she gives you to something you want. You could set it to exchange any clothing for a gift card to be used on the site. If you like, Amazon will send you an email requiring you to confirm the exchange and not only that, it will send a thank-you to dear Auntie for her original gift and she will have no idea that you pulled a switcheroo.
Amazon says it costs millions to track and complete exchanges every holiday season and this new method will cut down on that process by getting it right the first time. Etiquette experts are already crying foul and saying it ruins the whole concept of gift-giving but Amazon says it’s merely streamlining the whole muss and fuss of repackaging, sending the unwanted item back and having the wanted thing packaged and sent out. The company hopes to sell the gift intercepting software to other e-tailers and reduce on the estimated 30 percent of online-purchased gifts that are exchanged every year.
If it works and if Aunt Eunice can’t pick up a hint and if she continues to purchase something the recipient finds useless through Amazon and if her feelings can be spared and if it cuts down on the accumulation of ugly Christmas sweaters and if the recipient ends up with something they will actually use, well, what’s the harm?
But that’s an awful lot of ifs, isn’t it?