Amazon Encourages Rejects Rather Than Returns

Discussion
Dec 29, 2010
Bernice Hurst

By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire

Retailers
and consumers both dread returns. But Amazon has apparently found a solution
for both parties, quietly patenting a procedure that lets recipients avoid
undesirable gifts.

The Guardian notes that by using the so-called "Gift
Conversion Rules Wizard," the parameters of acceptable presents can be
individually set. The system is triggered when either certain gift-givers send
a present or when any incoming gift order contains certain criteria. For instance,
restrictions such as "no clothes with wool" or nothing featuring "Justin
Bieber or Susan Boyle" can be placed. "Check clothes sizes
first" ensures any apparel gift is is the right size.

The more controversial
part is enabling the censoring of gifts from certain givers. Amazon’s system,
according to a patent, will allow customers to "Convert
all gifts from Aunt Mildred. … For example, the user may specify such a rule
because the user believes that this potential sender has different tastes than
the user."

As the Washington Post explains, Amazon then appears
to accept an order but — instead of delivering it, sends a notification so
the recipient can choose something else instead or obtain a redemption coupon
for later use. The gift giver ostensibly knows nothing of the changed transaction.

To
avoid offending givers, recipients, according to the Guardian,
can "thank
the sender for the gift they thought they had sent, while secretly enjoying
the gift they ‘converted’"

Objections are being lead by Anna Post, according
to the Washington
Post
.
A descendent of "the late etiquette author Emily Post and spokeswoman
for the Emily Post Institute," Ms. Post believes a backlash could force
a re-think because it "totally misses the spirit of gift giving. … The
point of gift giving is to allow someone else to go through that action of
buying something for us."

Don Davis, editor of Internet Retailer magazine,
speaking to the Guardian,
believes it might not be successful because, "Given how many people use
Amazon, all the Aunt Mildreds of the world would soon know about ‘conversion’."
Its only likely success, he added, would be getting "Amazon on to a David
Letterman list of top 10 signs that western civilization is dead."

Discussion Questions: What do you think of Amazon’s Gift Conversion Rules
Wizard? Is this a great idea or another example of technology getting too
invasive?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

21 Comments on "Amazon Encourages Rejects Rather Than Returns"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

This is a great use of technology. I doubt Aunt Mildred will ever know but teens would lead the buzz on adoption.

Phil Rubin
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Call me scrooge but Amazon has figured out how to solve a huge problem for consumers and merchants in a way that is not only good for both, but for the gift giver as well.

While some of the givers might not appreciate the potential that their gift gets converted, wouldn’t most gift givers rather give a gift that is valued? Amazon solves this problem nicely and while there will always be purists who believe otherwise, anyone who has worked in retail on the day(s) after Christmas knows that this fix has huge potential.

Once again, Amazon continues to be ahead of every other retailer on the planet when it comes to thinking about customers and solving their problems.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Great idea (which by the way has some great benefits for Amazon).

This way everyone is happy.

Of course, if all you care about is the end happiness of the receiver, why not just insist on all gift cards/cash from all givers?

That way you don’t even need Amazon and Christmas concludes its evolution into a purely transactional holiday.

Ron Margulis
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

I guess I haven’t signed up for the service (just tried to without success) or the tool wasn’t active two weeks ago when I received a gift book that I had purchased from Amazon six months ago. I would have thought there was already a mechanism in place at Amazon to let the gift giver know the gift could be a duplicate.

This is not a revolutionary service, but rather a natural evolution of the CRM technology Amazon and other retailers are deploying. The interesting question is what’s next for retail technology. I suppose we’ll see some of it at NRF next month.

Max Goldberg
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

As usual, Ryan is spot on. It is a great idea. No one likes to receive a gift he/she doesn’t want. And no one likes waiting in line to make returns. Otherwise, why would gift cards be so popular?

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 4 months ago

Seems like a terrific win/win to me, with one caveat. There is a time-honored tradition of bringing out Aunt Mildred’s gifts (art, crockery, apparel) when the dear lady comes to visit. This does however create a terrific creativity challenge–the dog ate it, we were burglarized by thieves with incredibly good taste, etc. Amazon could provide some of these as a way to cope with these visits.

On the other hand, if the giver is so indifferent to what the recipient actually like/wants, they probably won’t notice anyway.

All in all, a terrific use of technology.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Change the title of the article to “Amazon makes sure you will never get a gift you have to return and or the reverse Amazon make sure you will never give a gift that will have to be returned.

Win/Win for everyone. Better than a gift card because it says you cared enough to actually shop for what you thought the person would like.

Robert Straub
Guest
Robert Straub
10 years 4 months ago

The flipside is that there will be a small but not insignificant minority, such as myself, who will now use other online retailers to send gifts. I guess I’m just a Scrooge but I want to choose the gifts I give. If someone wants to buy something for themselves, they can just ask me for money and not pretend it’s about anything else.

Plus, the people who think Aunt Mildred won’t get wise to Amazon have never met my computer savvy septuagenarian parents.

Alyson Anderson
Guest
Alyson Anderson
10 years 4 months ago
This is great technology but lets use it in the proper way. Isn’t the customer making the purchase, the one giving Amazon the money? Shouldn’t they be allowed to be part of this decision instead of Amazon going behind their back and sending something else? If this was a transparent transaction (i.e. the customer had the option to allow the recipient to exchange or convert their gift choice) then I think it is a great way to save on returns/exchanges and make the process more efficient. But if Amazon is going to do this without a customer’s knowledge, is this the way you should be treating a customer, going behind their back and making decisions about what THEY wanted to purchase? Yes, we all would prefer to not have to deal with a return on Aunt Mildred’s bad fashion choices. However, she is the one spending the money and should be treated respectfully by the store or customer where she made the purchase. Not with games and dishonestly. This is a wonderful way for technology… Read more »
Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
10 years 4 months ago

When both the gift giving and the receiving become this complicated and this mechanical, and this devious, it sort of suggests the point of it all, and the love of it all, have been lost. I don’t fault Amazon here. In fact I give them kudos for trying to make the best of a strange situation. But it makes me sad, too. I am actually surprised that our “me me me” society hasn’t already produced more Christmas gift registries just like the Bridal registries.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Certainly anything that suppresses Justin Bieber sales is a positive…right? Actually, while everyone here sees it as a “win-win”–which isn’t surprising given the retailer component of the panelists–my own thoughts tend to reflect the ambiguity in the Post article…I guess you could say that the Emily Post in me isn’t delighted; we often hear on this board complaints about the decline in the quality of staffing and the loss of the “Art of Selling,” and this seems like just one more excuse to diminish those even further; why bother to have anyone–seller or buyer–put any effort into thoughtfully selecting gifts if the assumption is that they will be little more than trade-in fodder.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Alyson and Ron have made such good suggestions that they should go for their own patent before Amazon (or someone else) grabs them. Without asking people to set up registries, the retailer can still help gift-givers evaluate the purchases they’re considering–what else has the recipient bought in the last year, what might they like based on that? It seems a mere variation on the recommendations already made to each of us trying to guess our preferences. It surely isn’t beyond the scope of current technology to come up with a list of suggestions for gifts that can be selected, given with love and received with appreciation.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Not everyone will be happy, but there will be more happy than not, and the “nots” will mostly not really care that much. More importantly there is this: “Amazon continues to be ahead of every other retailer on the planet when it comes to thinking about customers and solving their problems.” – Phil Rubin, CEO, rDialogue

Again, Amazon is the preeminent SELLING organization on earth, just as “Walmart” is the preeminent logistical organization on earth. Traditional self-service retailing is first and foremost all about LOGISTICS – getting stuff people want to them (if and when they come to your store.) This so dominates the thinking process in the retail space, that it is nearly incomprehensible to them that their obsession with logistics has caused selling skills to atrophy over the past 100 years.

This bodes better for Amazon and a “mobile Amazon” than it does for traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers.

Tracey Croughwell
Guest
Tracey Croughwell
10 years 4 months ago

I’m surprised no one’s mentioned the ‘green’ benefit — fewer returns means less useless transportation, saving a lot of gas and pollution!

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
10 years 4 months ago

Emily Post and all of her relatives can kiss my credit card.

Amazon has once again created a new business model designed to reduce waste and increase efficiency. The only thing that could be simpler is to convert all e-gifts to e-cash that can be spent anywhere. American Express now allows their rewards points to be used on Amazon. If everything else was this easy, then retirement would be a complete ball. Amazon gets my vote. Note to Washington Post – Cancel my subscription!

Jerome Schindler
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

As an attorney, to maintain an ethical standard we have to ask “who is the client.” Here the client is Amazon’s customer–not the recipient of the gift. If I make a contract with Amazon to purchase a specific article and deliver it to a recipient, and Amazon does something else, they have violated our contact. I have glanced into my crystal ball and see a major class action lawsuit in the future.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

This is a win/win for everyone:
Amazon increases sales and reduces returns.
Customer is happy.
Gift receiver is happy.

And they lived happily ever after….

Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
10 years 4 months ago

So much for it is better to give than receive? I think this is a great idea for those who have the Aunt Mildred and for the younger generation. Since my wife and I do not celebrate Christmas (too much material stuff already) it would not be applicable, but I see my 5 1/2 year old twins filling out their lists next year.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
10 years 4 months ago

Honesty is always the best policy. Why thank Aunt Mildred for a present she never sent you? Wouldn’t she likely find out later that you never got the present she sent? I do think the giver should determine what the person receives since they are the one spending the money.

I do like the ideas of letting the giver know it’s a duplicate order on Amazon and a gift registry online where givers can peruse what receivers might want. That’s more honest to me and if promoted, could reduce returns and increase efficiency.

Giacinta Shidler
Guest
Giacinta Shidler
10 years 4 months ago

I agree with those who think transparency is an issue. I find the whole “Dear Aunt Mildred” example patronizing–surely Amazon doesn’t think its customers are this clueless? The customer who spends the money made their purchasing decision, and it shouldn’t just be countermanded without their knowledge. Amazon should expand on its suggestions, informing purchasers of a potential recipient’s stated preferences and highlighting a potential conflict, and go no further. Ultimately the decision should still rest with the purchaser.

Donna Brockway
Guest
Donna Brockway
10 years 4 months ago

I fail to see the downside here. Everyone is happy — the giver, the recipient, and the retailer. It’s all about the consumer, and positive outcomes. I’m thinking about how bricks and mortars can simulate the same process, and it’s very possible.

Bottom line, why wouldn’t we do it?

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