Amazon patents “preturns” of gifts

Amazon patents “preturns” of gifts

Did you ever get a gift from somebody and couldn’t believe they chose that for you?

What did you do?

Did you just keep it because, you know, it was a gift and you feel like that’s the right thing to do?  Later on, every time you opened the closet and saw that unwelcome gift your rolled your eyes at the gift-giver’s taste? 

Maybe you re-gifted it.  In many cases, you might think it was a perfectly good gift…just not for you.  That might even be because you already own it.  Hey, this a great way to go for that “white elephant” exchange at work.  Or maybe you donated it, took it to the Goodwill store.

However, what many people do is return it for a refund. 

With a brick-and-mortar store, that can be a hassle.  You have to make that trip to the mall, deal with the returns clerk, find something else, get back in-line…yuck. 

With an online retailer, like giant, you have to box it up, put a return label on it, send it back.  Even though they have made this easier than it used to be, it’s still a lot of work and expense for them.  Imagine this wonderful, amazing salt grinder…being sent to someone who has been put on a low-sodium diet.  It has to be boxed by Amazon, flown and/or trucked to the recipient across the country, who then opens it, boxes it up again, gets it back on a truck or plane, Amazon gets it, has to process the return, review the item, and maybe re-sell it.  They probably will end up sending you something else…not a good use of fossil fuels.

Not very efficient.

Amazon has a patent


which can solve all that.

What if, before the salt grinder was sent out, you got an e-mail with a nice picture of it saying, “Aunt Mildred got you a salt grinder…would you like us to send it, or would you rather have a gift certificate?” 

The recipient can get credit before the gift is even sent.

They are doing a return, they are doing what I am hereby calling a “preturn”.  🙂

It’s a brilliant idea from a company that is always innovating.

Like many big changes, though, the hard part will be getting the public to accept it.

Would you be offended as the gift-giver?  Why, don’t you want the recipient to like your gift? 

I’d have to make a mental shift, but this is so much more ecological, so much more efficient…and yes, efficiency might seem antithetical to the excess that can come with gift-giving…that I could see really liking this.

The patent is even more complex than that.

The system allows for a great deal of computer logic.  You can set up rules to say what sorts of gifts should be “converted”, and what should happen to them.

For example, you can set a limit on the quantity.  Let’s say that somebody wants a Wii for the holidays.  A limit of one could say that the you get the Wii from the first person, but not from the second.  For the second person, you could say that it would be converted to a gift certificate…or even to specific items on your gift list.  So, the first person gave you the Wii, the second bought you those three games you really wanted.

It can be based on size: you used to wear an extra-large, now you wear a large.  You could set a rule that automatically converts the extra-large to a large.  You get the size you want, and the sender doesn’t have to guess or call Grandma first to get it.

I love this one: you could have the gift automatically sent to a charity.  That can also be based on type of gift: if I’m sent food, send it to the food bank.

You could also set up how it worked.  You could see the gift choice first, or get an automatic conversion.  The latter might be great on the wrong sizes, for example.  You could choose to have the sender notified…or not. 

If the sender was notified, it could even be a good marketing gimmick.  Send out free samples, and see what people did.  You could sign up for a program that way…you agree to let the manufacturer know the item you got instead if you preturned it. 

Size, quantity, timing (travel gifts after the trip), format (X-Box versus Playstation), product feature (no plaid, no leather), cost (you might not want a $100 gadget cover, but want a $20 one and other accessories), and even by person…lots of choices.

Honestly, I think this is one of the most brilliant ideas I’ve seen in a long time, and I’m a former retailer. 

However, better isn’t always popular…we still can’t get Americans to use the metric system.  😉

What do you think?  Is this against the spirit of giving?  Are the feelings of the giver more important than the feelings of the recipient?  Is it looking a gift horse in the mouth…and turning it into a motorcycle?  😉

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.


One Response to “Amazon patents “preturns” of gifts”

  1. patents – Hd Radio: How Can I Use It? Says:

    […] Amazon patents “preturns” of gifts « The Measured Circle […]

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