Amazon has won a patent for a system that intercepts bad gifts and sends you a gift certificate instead.
The patent, which is comical yet pretty innovative, is described like this:
A computer-implemented data processing system comprises a user interface and gift conversion logic. The user interface is configured to permit users to order products using a network service, such as a website. The gift conversion logic is in communication with the user interface and permits the users to specify gift conversion rules. For each user that specifies gift conversion rules, the gift conversion rules define a manner in which gifts purchased for the user by other users may be converted.
Indeed, you could set up a rule that dictated that orders from Aunt Betty be converted to gift certificates. The system is just swell---until Aunt Betty happens to ask where her gift is.
Another key excerpt from the patent via TechFlash:
With the increasing popularity of network shopping services (e.g., websites that enable users to make purchases on-line), the popularity of purchasing gifts through network shopping services has also increased. As in other gift-giving situations, it sometimes occurs that gifts purchased on-line do not meet the needs or tastes of the gift recipient. For example, the recipient may already have the item and may not need another one of that same item. Alternatively, the item may not be the right size, the right type, the right style, and so on. In such situations, the recipient may wish to convert the gift to something else, for example, by exchanging the gift for another item or by obtaining a redemption coupon, gift card, or other gift certificate to be redeemed later.
The gift giving experience through network shopping services would be improved for both senders and recipients if enhanced systems and methods were provided for converting gifts.