December 28, 2010
These return-required gifts of Christmas Present may soon be relegated to Christmas Past if Amazon.com has its way.
According to the Washington Post, “The online retailer has quietly patented a way for people to return gifts before they receive them, and the patent documents even mention poor Aunt Mildred. Amazon’s innovation, not ready for this Christmas season, includes an option to “Convert all gifts from Aunt Mildred,” the patent says.”
The gifts you would have gotten but opted out of before their delivery can be converted into gift cards.
The patent is US 7831439. I was able to track the patent down by searching US-PAT-ALL for aunt-mildred & amazon. (Aunt Mildred makes another, unrelated appearance in this database. Great Aunt Edna appears in an automated management behavior device. Aunts Ethyl and Agnes could not be found but Uncle Ed is in a 2009 application for a mobile multimedia management system.)
Having just survived the post-holiday crowds to make a return myself this, “System and Method for Converting Gifts” seems absolutely brilliant.
However, WaPo’s article does conclude with a helpful reminder: Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette-maven Emily Post, kindly extols, “Gift giving is not just about the loot. It’s about the fact that someone thought to get you something, and took the time to do it. That’s no small thing in this world.”
Ms. Post is right and I will now reconsider the return and think about un-returning it. Perhaps a patent lies somewhere in that process.