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Preemptively Save Christmas '08 with the Amazon Gift Organizer

Amazon.com : Amazon Gift Central

With the holidays' major combat operations now complete -- but while the trauma of bell fatigue and the stink of Orange Julius are still fresh in your mind -- I wanted to share a simple tip on something that was really useful to me this past Christmas and that might make your own life easier for next December or any other giftable event along the way.

So, you certainly know that you can create an Amazon Wish List to let people locate and purchase items you would enjoy having as gifts; that's been around forever (and most needy cam girls have the iPods and panties to prove it). And you may even have caught on that you can now have multiple Wish Lists (with differing privacy settings). And if you're a power user (read: "Amazon Prime dork"), you will surely be utilizing the very helpful Shopping List for finding and re-ordering repeat items like printer toner and blank CDs. But were you aware of the crazy-useful "Gift Organizer?" Well, okay, then.

Amazon has been smart about combining several pieces of existing functionality to create the Gift Organizer. For example, you'll probably start simply by identifying the wish list of a friend or family member. That's pretty useful, because you can see when birthdays and anniversaries are arriving in order to gift accordingly, plus, what's better than giving someone something they actually want? Quick win, there.

But then it gets better. Once the folks in your gifty circle are identified, you can also start bookmarking gift ideas that might be nice to give them in the future. So, as you surf Amazon and notice stuff that might be cool for Mom or Aunt Sue or that nice UPS man, just click "Add to Wish List" and select the person it's intended for. Into the hopper it goes. Ubiquitous capture. Swish.

Furthermore, as you purchase actual things for the people in your circle, Amazon lets you identify who the items were gifted to (you can even clean up your recent purchase history this way). That information gets stored in your per-gifted-person area where you can continue to add new ideas for future gifts from any Amazon item page (again, very much like adding to your own wish list, but for others). On top of it all, Amazon will then employ their awesome collaborative filtering to suggest more items that this person may like, and the music goes 'round.

Now, the cool part of all this -- even if you don't use Amazon very much -- is that Amazon.com is friggin huge. Which means that they (or their "Marketplace" partners) carry a ridiculously high percentage of the purchasable, shippable items available in the consumer universe. So, if you start using the Gift Organizer today -- even for stuff you have no intention of buying from Amazon -- your life is going to be much easier the next time a gift-giving occasion rolls around; you've capitalized on several months of passive, half-assed attention to actually do something useful.

Other ideas? One might be to create a few notional gift recipients to represent clients, co-workers, or the other compulsory gift recipients in your life; finding that clever, inexpensive gift at your leisure is a lot less stressful than having to tear ass on December 21st.

In an ideal world, giving gifts to your pals shouldn't feel like a stressful race. If your heart is willing but your tolerance for malls is weak, try giving the Gift Organizer a spin. You can always make your own Orange Julius.

vmarinelli's picture

Rabbit holes of various dimensions

I'd harbored a grudge against Amazon for some time (for starters, they usurped the name of the long-established, single-storefront Minneapolis feminist book shop... there was a lawsuit and everything), and then there's the issue of indie bookstores going under because of Amazon's overwhelming market presence. But in '07 I very gladly sold the materialist portion of my soul to them, for the very reason (the gift organizer function - brilliant!) you describe. Thing is, I have rocky relationships with lots of people I nonetheless do love, and for years I've had this pattern of buying them gifts (not even particularly apt gifts) and never managing to actually send them (it's like I'm allergic to the damned post office). Last month I came across the brand-new, wrapped, VHS version of Being John Malkovich, and rolled my eyes at how I'd gotten it for my former foster sister who, no doubt, has long since moved on to DVD technology (though I can't say for sure as we've been mostly out of touch).

But, ha, last year when it occurred to me, in the course of reading the hilarious, deep, and kinda scary young adult novel "Manstealing for Fat Girls," that this would be an awesome book for her, I had the sense to add it to my little profile for her and then - lo! - I actually ended up purchasing it and having it sent to her in a timely fashion. (And everybody else got individually-appropriate, sent-on-time stuff from me too; some in the family were actually a bit alarmed.)

It's beyond pathetic that I need a service like Amazon to keep track of that shit for me, but what the hell, it works, right?

Of course since then I've totally fallen down the Amazon rabbit hole. Have you hit their Grocery section yet? Right now I have enough rice, Clif bars, generic Claritin, eco-friendly toilet paper, cat litter, peanut butter, and laundry detergent to last until Armageddon (almost all of it Amazon Prime-eligible). Now when we go out for groceries, it's just for produce, dairy, etc. - and it takes a lot less time and energy than shopping for all that additional crap.

And while it's probably old news to the incredibly-well-networked likes of you, Lore Sjöberg had a Wired podcast about this very topic (the Amazon Christmas shopping part) that was hilarious. If I could find the damn link I'd post it... right now I can't even find my stinkin' iPod, or for that matter "my ass with both hands," which is why I need some kind of GTD system, which is how (besides following you on Twitter, my God, you can make "justified text" funny!) I ended up here this evening... And ended up doing nothing whatsoever to improve my productivity, but rather, further fed the beast of my apparent ADD (and then inflicted it on others via comments). (Do I get an "annoying commenter" pass because it's my first visit here? Pretty please? I'll try not to spill quite so much blather next time...)

Best regards - V.

P.S. I was confused about who you were for the very longest time - I once knew someone else who went by "Merlin Mann," except that MM was a lesbian.




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