Amazon patents procedure to let recipients avoid undesirable gifts -- Washington Post

Via unconsumption:

Mike Rosenwald reports that Amazon has quietly patented a process that intercepts gifts you don’t want and allows you to receive items you actually do want:

Amazon’s innovation, not ready for this Christmas season, includes an option to “Convert all gifts from Aunt Mildred,” the patent says. “For example, the user may specify such a rule because the user believes that this potential sender has different tastes than the user.” In other words, the consumer could keep an online list of lousy gift-givers whose choices would be vetted before anything ships.

Such a gift-conversion system would reduce shipping and packaging waste, benefiting both consumers and e-retailers, who rang up some $28 billion in gift purchases this holiday season. Up to 30 percent of gifts purchased online are returned.

Carl Howe, a Yankee Group consumer technology analyst, says, “If you can get the right gift to a person the first time, this could be a huge cost-saving invention. From a retailer’s perspective, this is like gold.”

See also earlier Unconsumption posts about trading and bartering as ways to help offset inefficient gift-giving

Digital Overload: Your Brain On Gadgets : NPR

This morning, NPR aired this “Digital Overload” interview with NYT’s Matt Richtel. It dovetails with the Times’s “Your Brains on Computers” series (latest installment here).

I heard only snippets of the NPR interview … because I was fiddling around online (doing “stuff”). Had I not been multi-tasking, I might have actually *listened* to the NPR story.

Makes me want to – and think I should – extend what I’ve dubbed “my self-imposed Facebook hiatus” a while longer.

Anybody else feel compelled to scale back online activity, even temporarily, as I’m doing, to help diminish digital overload?

Oil Spill Donations Are Small, but Some Companies Step Up --

“Now Pepsi is donating $1.3 million through its Pepsi Refresh Project, which uses a Web site,, to determine grant winners by popular vote. That sum is in addition to $20 million that Pepsi has vowed to give away in 2010 in the cause marketing effort, the term for collaborating with nonprofit organizations to bolster both charities and the reputations of companies.

Related: See "Funding should not be a popularity contest,” with links to this post and others.