The Amazon ultimate Ad

The lost art of gift offering

Here’s an interesting personal story that I experienced recently, about gifts.

Ancient wrapping for objects exchanged in human social relationships

My brother is a frequent traveler, he travels to all kinds of places and recently he even went to the Google I/O event in San Francisco, very cool. My mother was also a very frequent traveler in her working years and she used us to the custom of gift giving when she came back from her trips. It was always her thing to bring back all kinds of exotic things from all over the world as gifts for us. We always had this excitement to see what she brought back for us knowing that we would always love it. So when myself I travel, I like bringing back nice things to people around me, either my family, my friends or even sometimes my co-workers. I find it’s something pleasant to do both for me and for the people who receive the gifts. However, I know from experience that this is something not everybody likes. I think it might be a cultural thing, but western people for example are very shocked when they receive a gift for no apparent reason, it is just something very strange to do: to offer something because it pleases you without waiting for something in return – VERY ODD <suspicious-look/>.

Anyway, this is what I have in mind from my mother when I travel. Yet, even if my brother probably has the same idea in mind, it is not natural for him to bring back a gift from his trips. From experience I know that it works best for him, if I ask for something that I know I want and I am very specific so it’s not a hassle for him to choose. From our common experience, I think he gets the thing, the gift offering.

Receiving a gift from someone who’s been traveling is a thoughtful gesture that brings a lot of joy, it is very much a social thing more than a trade thing, the gesture trumps the object. Maybe this is absolutely emphasised because of my experience with my mother, but giving gifts is social more than anything else.

Anyway, since it’s not natural for my brother, I asked for a gift from San Francisco this time. Truth is, he doesn’t like choosing and wasting time doing this, so if I know what I want, it is the best configuration for him, he prefers I just ask for what I want. This is how it had always worked in the past. So I just threw in there my preferences in terms of colors, other than that it was rather an identified object. I thought it wouldn’t be any problem since it’s something you can find in any tourist gift shop. I found I was precise, but I also left some uncertainty for the pleasure of receiving something he would have picked himself even in defined constraints. This would make it more like a gift, rather than something I ordered. I admit I wanted to leave some blur around the edges for the surprise of discovering what I would receive in the end. However, I never expected his answer. I honestly thought it would be ok and not a big deal. It was just something I would have liked if he had found it on his way, if he didn’t it was ok! But, pace yourself, here is what he told me.

I think you will have better chances of finding something to your taste by going directly on amazon.com.

BAM! I don’t know if I am the only one shocked by this answer. I don’t understand. I know he doesn’t like much to be bothered, this is true. Yet, I really don’t think I was bothering him.<deep-thinking/>.

So it got me thinking, wow, this is SO the ultimate Ad for Amazon. Imagine the commercial, a kid asking a gift to Santa Claus, and Santa Claus answering “Go to amazon.com”, “You will have better chances of finding something to your tastes”. Amazon really nailed it, it got into our lives ! My brother was very serious, he was not ironical or teasing in any way which kind of freaked me out. Is this how it is now? Will we totally forget the art of giving gifts in the future because anyone can find anything on AMAZON DOT COM? And we are too lazy to pay the tiniest attention to the other person’s concerns? This is so terrible. I know my brother likes cutting to the most efficient path, he is an engineer. But so am I. And I don’t get it. When I ask for this “object”, I’m not actually after the object, of course I can order it. But I find it really lame to order a souvenir on Amazon, this is the ultimate pathetic thing to do. Damn. What I was after, was the happiness of having someone traveling I can ask something to, and receiving a “travel gift”. I might have been too carried away, with my silly conception of “gifts and people”, I totally missed the switch. Nowadays in the 21st century everybody buys on AMAZON DOT COM, even their own gifts. Okay, I can adapt to the present. Breathe, forget the human relationships you once knew in this fairy world of yours. Get a username, and BUY.

Technology really helps for a lot of stuff. It makes everything a click away and eases everything, it makes every process very efficient. Yet, there is one process that technology kind of ruins I think. It’s the human relationships process. Every time technology gets in the way of this, the result is a disaster. We are not good at relationships to start with, but when technology gets in the middle, it’s just worst. I think, social relationships are really destroyed by this drive for efficiency, we want to manage our social interactions like yet another “trade”. I don’t want to bash technology because I love it, but something is not right and technology is a little bit concerned, it really influences the way we think and behave. Sometimes badly. It’s like with it we tend to forget we are people dealing with people, first and foremost. And you can never reduce a human relationship to a canonical transaction.

Gift offering. Right. It’s the last time I ask in fact, I get the message. Gifts should not be asked anyway, this is something already very dodgy to do, Madam! But this is how we do in our time. We really aim for absolute efficiency. I might be the last one remaining here who spends time choosing a gift that will please, and even writes a card, a goddamn PAPER card!

Human relationships… there is not yet a website that manages those, is there? There is!?? What? You mean I can add friends to a cart? Really?!! Where???

Aaaaaah.

I think you will have better chances of finding relationships to your taste by going directly on facebook.com.

Goddammit ! <consternation/>