Amazon Patent Looks To Make Receiving Lousy Gifts A Thing Of The Past

from the provided-all-gift-giving-runs-through-Amazon,-which-is-THE-PLAN dept

An interesting patent has surfaced over at Quartz, detailing a method for exchanging unwanted gifts. Amazon filed this patent application in 2006 and had it granted in 2010, but so far, has yet to make use of it. (This is not to be confused with Amazon’s more controversial, broadly written “method of buying gifts online” patent which was granted back in 2009.) The twist in this patent is the exchange method, which would take place prior to receiving the unwanted gift.

A number of “rules” can be set, heading off unwanted gifts before they even hit the order fulfillment queue. In the case of the hypothetical “Aunt Mildred,” the user can choose to make the best of her good intentions that disguise themselves as bad gifts and eliminate her almost entirely from the gift selection process while also leaving her completely unaware that she’s been cut out in favor of a checkboxed “middleman.”

In addition, users can select whether to be notified and carry out the exchange manually or allow the algorithm to do all the heavy lifting. Interestingly, the patented system will also allow purchasers to place limits on exchanges, which should lead to some very interesting post-Christmas conversations, once all the behind-the-scenes gift trading has finished.

Of course, the whole setup process is wasted should gift givers decide to purchase from other services, but adding the ability to painlessly ‘hot swap’ yet another sweater for something you’d rather have, without having to go through the rarely painless return/exchange process could have many Amazon customers recommending the service to familial holdouts.

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Companies: amazon

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Comments on “Amazon Patent Looks To Make Receiving Lousy Gifts A Thing Of The Past”

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Titania Bonham-Smythe (profile) says:


Before briefly checking that it wasn’t April 1st, I looked at the Rules And Alerts dialogue box in Outlook 2007 because the interface for Figure 3 seemed eerily familiar.

The text “Rule description (click on an underlined value to edit)” is identical. And isn’t it strange that it uses an interface for a Windows application (such as the OK, Apply, Cancel buttons) when Amazon would most likely have a web interface for this service.

I still think it’s a wind-up and when I’ve had my first coffee of the day I’ll regret commenting.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I applaud your moral stand of not supporting certain companies even when buying gifts for people close to you. But I think that this patent only applies to the ‘gifts’ system on the site, and therefore can be entirely circumvented by simply buying what you want to buy, then giving or sending the item to its recipient. So I’m not seeing a problem here.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No, she would be buying you a pair of mittens (apparently for $300) and they would be converted automatically during fulfillment into a PS3. She wouldn’t even be notified. They need to add a ‘Thank you’ system to this that converts “Thank you for the PS3. I am having a blast playing Gears of War” into “Thank you for the mittens. I am having a blast playing outside”.

Call me Al says:

I love those rules.

I can just imagine someone saying “Oh no.. not another pair of mittens. I already have 100.”

I can’t say I’ve ever actually used Amazon’s wishlist functionality so my account is not connected with anyone else’s and to my knowledge vice versa. They obviously think there is a space for this kind of thing though and it is somewhat intriguing.

Mr. Applegate says:

You know everyone says that giving Gift Cards is a thoughtless gift and a terrible idea. Yet if you put a lot of thought into a gift they want to re-gift it, return it, exchange it…

That is a sad statement about the selfishness of people.

I still have that sweater Grandma knitted for me when I was 12. No I can’t wear it, yes grandma is long gone, but I keep it still.

I have never and would never re-gift. It is an insult to the person who gave you a gift and it is an insult to the person you give the gift to.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You clearly have never gotten a really bad gift, or something you already own. You know, you have a movie on dvd and someone gets you the same thing? You wouldn’t return it, or regift it? Selfishness doesn’t have much to do with it, nor does respect. To set the standard like you are is just unreasonable.

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Sure, I have gotten something I already own. When that happens I speak to the person who gave me the gift and explain the situation and let them choose to return, and get me something else, or whatever.

The point is it is offensive to re-gift… without telling the person that gave you the gift and giving them the opportunity to fix it.

It is totally selfish to take a gift knowing full well you are going to re-gift it. It is two-faced and dishonest, both to the person who gave you the gift and the person you gave the gift to.

You simply need to be honest with the person and say: “hey Aunt Nell I already have this, would you like to get me something else, or I can return it and choose something else.”

There is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

So your answer is to be like everyone else?

Have no regard for the person who gives you a gift? Give no thought, or in fact invest anything in a re-gift you give to someone else?

I strive to be better than others, not that I always succeed.

Just because the lack of respect is rampant and extends from kids today all the way through the highest political offices doesn’t make it right.

Chris Brand says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I think respect goes both ways. As the gift-giver, it shows a huge lack of respect to think that you should have any say over what happens to the gift after it’s been given. It’s a gift. It’s theirs. They can give it away, sell it, burn it, whatever. If you didn’t want them to have full control over it, you shouldn’t have given it to them.

The attitude you espouse seems very similar to the companies who say “I’m selling you this, but after you’ve bought it, I’m still going to impose the following rules…”

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I am not saying that you should have control over a gift after it is given. Certainly you should have control over the gift, it was given to you, you should do with it what you want.

I am saying that it is not respectful to accept a gift and then throw it in the trash, re-gift it…

While you certainly have a right to do whatever you want with a gift given to you, don’t expect your actions to have no influence on future gifts offered or in fact the relationship with the gift giver as a whole.


“A gift or a present is an object given without the expectation of payment. Although gift-giving might involve an expectation of reciprocity, a gift is meant to be free. In many human societies, the act of mutually exchanging money, goods, etc. may contribute to social cohesion. Economists have elaborated the economics of gift-giving into the notion of a gift economy. By extension the term gift can refer to anything that makes the other happier or less sad, especially as a favor, including forgiveness and kindness.”

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

The attitude you espouse seems very similar to the companies who say “I’m selling you this, but after you’ve bought it, I’m still going to impose the following rules…”

Maybe what he’s saying is it’s disrespectful to shoot the guy that sold you a Smith and Wesson. Sure you bought it and can do whatever you want with it, but it’s still disrespectful.

You should shoot him with a Deringer instead.

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