Dear Customer: Someone Wishes To Send You Some Crap. Allow?

Amazon has been awardeda pretty interesting patent.It’s for a system that would allow people to exchange gifts that are coming their way via the company for something else before they even ship out, saving the recipient the hassle of returning them later.

Amazon specifically cites a fictional “Aunt Mildred.” In the example, the recipient identifies his or her aunt as having “different tastes than the user.” The system will require information about Aunt Mildred to accurately identify her. When Aunt Mildred sends a gift to the recipient, the system’s “gift conversion is triggered.”

Amazon’s system goes beyond just targeting family members and friends who offer undesirable gifts. The company’s patent also includes a system whereby recipients can “check clothes sizes first” to ensure the gift they’re about to receive is the right size. If it is, they’ll receive it. If not, the system will recognize the wrong size and trigger a conversion that changes the gift to another size.

If a person does choose to block a shipment, the system will allow him to pick something else presumably of equal value or to take a gift card instead.

the biggest problem I can see here is that it might be fairly time consuming for someone to profile everybody who might send stupid gifts, especially as more and more people start doing their shopping online instead of at the mall. Do I really feel like sitting there pumping information about what I think somebody might like and what I don’t into Amazon just for the sake of not getting an ugly sweater or two? And what if I’m wrong? I mean if Aunt Mildred can so criminally misjudge me, what’s stopping me from doing the same thing when it comes to her tastes? Seems to me it would be a lot easier if the system shot me an email whenever somebody wanted to ship me anything rather than the burden falling on me the way this makes it sound.

I also have to wonder how much information a set-up like this would need. Any time a company wants to profile my tastes and those of people I know and store this information for future use, the privacy part of my brain tends to get a little twitchy. Sure they’re using it to save me some trouble right now, but what’s to stop one company arm from combining with another later on?

I think this idea is at least somewhat well intended, but why can’t bad gifts be a fact of life? There are worse things in the world than getting a set of Justin Bieber coffee mugs, and what’s stopping you from re-gifting them to somebody who may actually want them? Besides, even the blind squirrel finds a nut now and again. I’ve got some repeat offenders in my family, but those same people who you’d think hardly know me some years have come through pretty big sometimes. Maybe I’m getting old, but I’m still into that element of surprise thing.

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