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.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Titania Bonham-Smythe, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 1:38am

    Outlook

    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.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 2:11am

    Perfect! Now someone else can use my money to buy/support products that I have no intention of supporting.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 2:36am

    hmmm....wouldn't aunt mildred get suspicious if the only thing popping up on amazon is a PS3?

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 2:38am

    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.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Call me Al, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 2:40am

    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.

     

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  6.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jan 11th, 2013 @ 2:46am

    Can I use it to get rid of granny's hideous knitted sweater?

     

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  7.  
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    stephantual (profile), Jan 11th, 2013 @ 3:44am

    Can someone explain...

    This is an idea and I thought it was not possible to patent ideas. Nine half-baked Balsamiq mockups surely do not make a software prototype?

     

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  8.  
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    Capt ICE Enforcer, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 3:48am

    Umm. Crap

    I sure am glad they needed a patent to protect that idea. Heaven forbid anyone else be allowed to use that idea for their website. I can't wait until I have to license regifting bad gifts to someone else. Or get a license for wrapping gifts before holiday or special events. Their idea is good. Patenting it is bad.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 4:10am

    Amazon vying to become the world financial system :)

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 4:22am

    Re: Can someone explain...

    Its easy, the patent office gets money for issued patents, and pleases the politicians when it issues lots of patents. The number of patents issued equals the amount of innovation, so by issuing more patents there is more innovation.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 4:25am

    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".

     

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  12.  
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    Michael, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 4:26am

    Re:

    Children make the wish-list functionality AWESOME. My two nephews and my son can pick things out and they never get duplicate gifts or get something they don't want.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 4:27am

    Re:

    Please keep the talk about grandma porn off of TechDirt.

     

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  14.  
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    Wesha (profile), Jan 11th, 2013 @ 4:32am

    Brilliant! I totally know what mine will look like...

    [x] Convert [any gift] from [anynone] to [gift card].

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 4:43am

    [x] Convert all ties to beer.
    Insert brand choice ________

     

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  16.  
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    Mr. Applegate, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 5:26am

    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.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 5:37am

    Re:

    Are you forced to wear those ties your mother-in-law gave you?

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Mr. Applegate, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 5:52am

    Re: Re:

    "Are you forced to wear those ties your mother-in-law gave you?

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Mr. Applegate, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 5:55am

    Re: Re:

    No I am not forced, or even asked to wear the tie. I do so out of respect (if only at a gathering of the in-laws).

    Respect is one of those funny things it is most often received when it is first given.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 6:34am

    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.

     

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  21.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Jan 11th, 2013 @ 6:46am

    Re:

    Unless you send someone a gift, and that person has a rule to convert every gift from you into a product that you have no intention of supporting ;)

     

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  22.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Jan 11th, 2013 @ 6:49am

    Re:

    A lot of stores have long had the option of converting "gifts" to you to store credit.

    When I made my wedding gift list, I opted for that, so I basically got a debit card with all that money instead of the things people thought they were gifting me.

     

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  23.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Jan 11th, 2013 @ 6:50am

    Re: Re:

    Disregard this, that's what you were saying.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Mr. Applegate, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 7:07am

    Re: Re: Re: 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.

     

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  25.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Jan 11th, 2013 @ 7:49am

    Re: Outlook

    I was thinking much the same. Microsoft should sue for look-and-feel.

     

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  26.  
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    Atkray (profile), Jan 11th, 2013 @ 8:15am

    Re: Re:

    Those stores will now find that they are in violation of this patent. Let the madness begin.

     

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  27.  
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    Atkray (profile), Jan 11th, 2013 @ 8:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    While I agree with what you have said, I have to remind you that we no longer live in a "Father Knows Best" world.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Mr. Applegate, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 9:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

     

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  29.  
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    Chris Brand (profile), Jan 11th, 2013 @ 9:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: 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..."

     

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  30.  
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    Chosen Reject (profile), Jan 11th, 2013 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re:

    It's not terribly surprising that the mittens would cost $300. I mean, she apparently buys more than 100 of them at a time, and johnny-ungrateful wants no more than 100. With only 100 mittens, why you might have to wear the same pair twice in a single cold season.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Mr. Applegate, Jan 11th, 2013 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gift

    "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."

     

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  32.  
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    Chosen Reject (profile), Jan 11th, 2013 @ 11:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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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  33.  
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    Markus Hopkins (profile), Jan 11th, 2013 @ 1:12pm

    A Bit Late

    As much as I appreciate techdirt following developments like this one, in this case the patent actually "surfaced" back in 2010, and got coverage all over the place.
    See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/26/AR2010122601836.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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