Amazon has a plan that could revolutionize digital gift buying, a way for people to return gifts before they receive them
. They've invented and quietly patented an Unwanted Gift Interception and Gift Exchange System for those unwanted gifts. The technology would screen gifts and allow returns before items even ship, potentially saving billions in restocking costs.
Amazon's innovation, not ready for this Christmas season, includes an option to specify rules that intercept gifts from senders who have different tastes than the user. The consumer could keep an online list of lousy gift-givers whose choices would be vetted before anything ships.
Amazon's patent is 12 pages long, with numerous diagrams, including a "Gift Conversion Rules Wizard" that shows how a user could select rules such as, "No clothes with wool." The document makes for curious reading, reducing the art of gift giving to the dry language of patentry.
Of course, this crosses the line of proper etiquette for Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of the late etiquette author Emily Post and spokeswoman for the Emily Post Institute.
She hopes the company realizes it is risking major backlash and abandons the idea. Because of Amazon's dominance online, she and others say they fear the idea could spread throughout the e-retailing industry, which this holiday season racked up $28 billion in gift purchases.
"This idea totally misses the spirit of gift giving," Post said. "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."
Did you know that up to 30 percent of purchases are returned? The cost of getting those rejected gifts back across the country and onto shelves has online retailers scrambling for ways to reduce these expenses.
Losses are incurred from
1. Shipping costs
2. Labor costs (customer service calls, and extra staff for restocking in distribution centers)
3. Opened products have to be sold at a loss as refurbished
Retailers are trying to reduce shipping costs by using the less expensive U.S. Postal Service for at least part of the return journey. The Postal Service has partnered with its competitor, Federal Express, on a program called SmartPost, which consolidates individual packages into larger shipments.
The FedEx SmartPost service is an efficient and economical way to ship low-weight packages to residential customers. By utilizing the United States Postal Service® (USPS) for final delivery, FedEx SmartPost reaches every U.S. address, including P.O. boxes and military APO and FPO destinations.