Thursday, 21 March 2013

Facebook Gifting

Facebook is rolling out Gifts, promising to shit all over every small online retailer. The way it works, is you click Buy A Gift, select a real item, and pay for it with real money. The recipient gets a notification, and can swap it out for something they actually want, before entering their address details. It's pretty neat.

Screencap of Facebook's Gifting page.

I went window-shopping for a minute - I'd have no problem picking birthday gifts for 90% of my friends from here.

I liked the Kiva gift cards, the fruit box, and the octopus cup, if you're thinking of what to get for my birthday.

Screencap of Facebook's Gifting page, featuring "mustache soap".A coffee mug with a ceramic octopus on the bottom.
Don't like it? Swap it out after your gifter has picked it for you, and before it's posted out. I don't mind the idea of something being regifted - I never write in books before I give them, so they can be passed on if they're surplus to requirements - but somehow the idea of something being swapped out before it arrives feels a bit different somehow.

I found the Wine section questionable - aren't there laws around advertising booze to minors? Facebook users are - theoretically - aged 13 and up, although I'm sure they've thought of a way to stop the demon drink being sold to kids.
Screencap of Facebook's Gifting page, showing wine for sale.

There were also a lot of American-based stores.

Screencap of Facebook gifts for Target and Walgreens.

This'd be because rollout is limited to America. I can give Facebook my money, but only to give a gift to my two American friends.

Screencap of my two friends.Screencap of more friends, each labeled with Gifts can only be sent to people living in the US.

What I'd like to do is use it to buy gifts for my sister and her family in the UK. There are baby gifts! And I wouldn't have to go to the post office!

Screencap of one of the gifts - glow in the dark dinosaur stickers!
Facebook gifting falls down a little on the lack of variety. I give my sister-in-law cookbooks each Christmas. (We've met, like, twice, but she said she really, really liked the first cookbook I got her, so she's getting another one each year forever.) I'm not sure Facebook would have cookbooks, or have the sort I like  to pick out for her (New Zealand made, with a focus on baking), or if they did, would they ship to the UK?

It'll be interesting to watch this grow. Would I use this if it was in NZ? Probably. There's a few people each year who I think I ought to get a gift for, but don't quite manage it.

Usually I only give a gift when I go to someone's party. Because, gifts! Who really needs them? All my pals are doing okay and have any number of material objects - a present is unlikely to bring them more joy than my presence. A present I'd buy anyway.

Gifts form a nice part of a social contract though - when you go to a birthday party, the gift says, "I am glad you put in effort to having me round. I put in forethought and effort before seeing you tonight. Also, I'm going to eat your food and there's a small but non-zero chance I may puke in your toilet. Please accept this notebook/art print of a cat/bottle of wine as payment for the hassle and money I will cost you."

Gifts can also say: "You're really special to me. I'm glad I have you in my life, but it's too awkward to say that out loud in case you think I want to make out. Anyway, I saw this coffee mug and thought of you."

Facebook gifts work for that second gifting-reason - the 'I-was-thinking-of-you', but not the first. I predict that in a couple of years, sending a Facebook gift will be as tacky as sending an ecard. If it even lasts that long.

-- Update! -- A couple of my friends are having birthdays this week (August 2013). M invited me to her birthday party; we've posted cat pics on one another's walls; have lots of friends in common, and attended an event together last week. I went on holiday with C in a group a couple of years ago - I don't even think we're tagged in pictures together. Facebook only notified me of C's birthday, because C lives in America, and I can send her a gift.

It's cool you want to push gifts, Facies. I get it, I really do. But hiding my other friend's birthdays is not the way to do it.


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