Amazon has patented a system for automatically converting gifts prior to them being delivered, bypassing the hassle of a returns process but still allowing giftors to believe the original item has been received. The patent, "System and method for converting gifts", was filed back in 2006 and partially credited to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos; it describes a system where pre-defined rules - such as "no wool" or all items from a certain individual - are used to filter through presents bought for an individual, alerting them via email and then allowing them to replace it with an alternative of their choice.
Although the benefit to Amazon would primarily be one of simplifying their returns process, the patent details potential upsides of the filtering system to gift recipients. Matters of taste are a common theme, with unpleasant Christmas jumpers automatically being put on hold, as well as overly cautious presents that do not fully match up with the recipient's expectations:
"It sometimes occurs that gifts purchased online do not meet the needs or tastes of the gift recipient. In some cases, concern that the gift recipient may not like a particular gift may cause the person sending the gift to be more cautious in gift selection. The person sending the gift may be less likely to take a chance on a gift that is unexpected but that the recipient might truly enjoy, opting instead for a gift that is somewhat more predictable but less likely to be converted to something else." Amazon patent 7831439
Causing most controversy is the fact that Amazon would allow for a thank-you note to be sent to the sender of the gift, referring to the original choice rather than the replacement item (or the fact that you swapped it for a gift card). "The user may also be provided with the option of sending a thank you note for the original gift" the patent describes, "even though the original gift is converted," though it would also be possible to disclose that the present was exchanged, presumably in an attempt to better educate people to your tastes.
[via Washington Post]