Sue and I don’t agree about technology and its potential to improve Christmas.
Sue: Did you read about Amazon’s patent for an early warning gifting system? If Aunt Hilda gives you a book or device that isn’t on your wish list, Amazon will electronically convert that errant gift into something you have indicated that you prefer– or into a cash certificate.
Allison: I like it.
Sue: Do you like this? It also sends out an automated thank you note which can, if you choose, be tailored to Hilda’s original offering. The original! Hilda will think you appreciated her selection.
Allison: I am not for dishonesty, but Amazon isn’t introducing dishonesty into gift exchange. That’s been around for a long time.
Sue: Allison, it’s about Christmas, about feelings, about a process, about the entire process. It’s what we do.
Allison: It’s what we did.
Allison: Aunt Hilda, when she decided to rely on Amazon, should have looked at her niece’s wish list before she purchased. Even better, she could have called her or emailed or Skyped in advance of the purchase. What are you reading now? Anything you have been eager to read? Heard you bought a Mac Air. Would you like a case for it? Got a new hobby? Communicate in advance— then Amazon won’t have to intervene to sharpen up the gifting. Look at our experience this year. We have all those gifts to return. I heard that thirty percent of the gifts people receive are returned. Thirty percent. That’s a whole lot of postage and paper and tape and time.
Sue: I don’t know when I’ll find time to get to the mall to do those exchanges. But still, I don’t want Amazon to save me.
Allison: Remember, we don’t know the details of the system they’ve patented. I presume that Amazon will send prior notification to Hilda’s niece, perhaps something like: You have received XYZ gift from Hilda Brown. XYZ is not currently on your wish list. Would you like to receive this gift or would you prefer to exchange it for a gift card or one of the items on your preferred list?
Sue: That is so cold.
Allison: It would make me feel warm. I’d know my aunt was thinking about me, being her generous self, and I’d get what I want—and not have to stand in line at the Post Office or the mall.
Sue: Hilda, and the rest of us, would never know our gifts were off target.
Allison: She didn’t know before. I would be with you on this if bad gifting launched concept instruction about real preferences. Auntie, I love electronic gifts, especially anything that boosts my exercise, something like new ear buds or a gift card so I can pick music to listen to while I jog. I had my eye on the Polar heart rate monitor. You really did a great job when you got those award-winning exercise videos last year. Aunt Hilda, I’m not much of a reader and certainly not 20th century German literature.
Allison: Admit it. Most people don’t have that instructional conversation. People pretend and avoid. Then they return the gifts– or make do. Amazon’s new support system reduces our need to fake enthusiasm or endure gifts we don’t care for. This is efficient performance support. The smarts are inside the system, outside us, built into the process.
Allison: Bet they sell the system to other online merchants. I think you don’t like the influence of Amazon here. Check out this alternative, wishgenies, a personalized online support system devoted to improving individual gift decision-making. I applaud it.
Sue: Hold your applause and get ready to use those hands to generate hand-written thank you notes. It’s that time of year– and it’s what we do.
[No surprise that Allison favors performance support. She wrote a book about it.]