Amazon's patent, which is jointly attributed to CEO Jeff Bezos, includes among other services a way to automatically return presents from particular friends or family members who consistently send bad gifts. For example, the patent says you could "convert all gifts from Aunt Mildred." In this instance, "the user may specify such a rule because the user believes that this potential sender has different tastes than the user."
And whether the gift recipient implements this exchange regularly, or just once, the gift giver should never know the exchange happened: "The user may also be provided with the option of sending a thank you note for the original gift," according to the patent, "even though the original gift is converted."
"Misses the Spirit of Giving"
Amazon's rationale, as outlined in the patent filing, is that "the gift-giving experience through network shopping services would be improved for both senders and recipients if enhanced systems and methods were provided for converting gifts." There are also onerous and expensive shipping costs to contend with when up to 30% of all gifts are exchanged in some form or another.
For now, etiquette minders and potentially hurt family members can take a deep breath. Amazon has set no timetable for moving this idea from patent to reality, and even if it happens, the likelihood that millions of unhappy gift recipients will jump on board to "convert" their presents to the gadgets, clothes and toys they really want seems to be fairly small indeed.