Have you heard of Aunt Mildred? No, she’s not that one distant relative of yours who always gives the worst gifts, but that’s who Amazon had in mind when they came up with the Aunt Mildred program. 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. “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.
So what makes Amazon’s Aunt Mildred program green? In addition to being an economic headache and a logistical nightmare, the whole business of returning and exchanging a gift bought online isn’t exactly eco-friendly since there’s a whole lot of shipping involved. If a gift recipient can exchange a gift before ever receiving it, that’s two fewer trips that any one product has to make. Less shipping means less emissions and that means cleaner air.
Huh. I’m thinking that this might be one of those times where manners should trump making the Earth a better place, if only because Amazon’s Aunt Mildred program kind of takes the fun out of receiving gifts and seems like yet one more way that not-so-great gift givers can get out of having to find something their recipients will actually like. I know that gifts are returned and exchanged to the tune of 30% around the holiday season – which adds up to a lot of time in transit for stuff and for people – but when green gets gauche, is it really worth it? Would you use Aunt Mildred?