Amazon today launches a new gifting feature that allows Prime subscribers to send gifts to other people using an email address or a phone number. No address is required.
Amazon Prime members are required to gift-givers. The program is only available in the United States and can be used only on mobile devices. Even though Amazon has put in safeguards, the gift-giver cannot access the recipient's mailing address. This makes it a risky idea that can be exploited by stalkers, scammers, and others who enjoy the harassment of others online.
The new feature works like this: Gift-giver wishes to surprise the recipient with a gift, but does not know their recipients' mailing address. The gift-giver has either the recipient's email address or their phone number. The gift-giver selects the gift from his Amazon mobile app and then chooses the add gift receipt option for easy returns options. After selecting the option to allow the recipient to provide their address, the giver adds the recipient's email address or mobile number.
The gift-giver's card is not charged at this time, but a hold on their payment card is placed for the amount of the purchase.
The recipient then receives an email or text message letting her know that a gift has been sent. If the recipient does not have an Amazon account, they will be able to create one. To accept the gift, the recipient must have an Amazon account. However, only the giver can be Prime member.
To see the Amazon notice, the recipient can click on it. She can then decide whether she wants to accept the gift or decline it. The gift giver is charged if the recipient accepts it.
The gift-giver's money is refunded if the recipient does not respond to the notification.
I asked Amazon if there was an option for members to opt-out of this new service. Amazon's position is that if the recipient does not want the gift they can either decline it or ignore the notification. Whats to stop a troll/harasser/stalker from sending multiple gifts to a recipient just to spam them with notifications, when the giver knows the recipient wont accept? Technically, nothing. However, the recipient can notify Amazon customer support, who will determine what action to take. This behavior would be considered to be against Amazon's community guidelines.
The new gifting feature is not available for all Amazon products, but it does apply to millions of items. These eligible items include Amazon products and third-party sellers.
This clever Amazon feature will theoretically increase membership. However, this is not a way to accept gifts through Amazon without an Amazon account. This is a timely feature, as we are approaching holiday shopping season and already hear warnings about supply shortages and shipping delays.
The idea of receiving a gift from someone without your address may not be the best option. There might be a reason that the recipient's address isn't known to the gift-giver. You can opt out of receiving multiple gift alerts from spammers to your inbox or phone. However, the recipient will have to inform Amazon about the problem. According to the theory, Prime members can register their names, addresses, and payment method with Amazon so they won't be at risk of having their accounts revoked for sending fake gifts. However, this is not a foolproof way to prevent harassment.
Amazon claims that it will release this feature in the coming weeks.