Emotionless e-commerce and the death of the joy of gift-giving

“I was sitting on my couch the other evening, my wife seated across from me, when I decided it was as good a time as any to start Christmas shopping for her,” Jason Del Rey writes for AllThingsD. “She had given me some ideas to use as a sort of inspiration set, but I instead thought I would just buy a few of the exact items on the list to get some gifts under my belt before the calendar turned to December.

“A visit to H&M’s website: Click, click, click. Done. Then, a visit to Amazon.com: Click, click, click. Done,” Del Rey writes. “Hardly a thought involved. No stress. Christmas in a neat brown box for the most important woman in my life, delivered to my doorstep in just two days.”

“By and large, [e-commerce sites] are too easy, too impersonal, and — really — too convenient. That impersonality is perhaps part of the reason why so many young, digital commerce companies seem intent on opening pop-up shops or permanent outposts in the brick-and-mortar world,” Del Rey writes. “But there are some encouraging signs in a young crop of e-commerce startups going out of their way to convey the story behind the products to their site visitors in an effort to establish a connection.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]


  1. In a society where people broadly speaking have everything they want, or more than they need, gift giving has long been largely symbolic. Every year people struggle to find something to buy for someone, or they spend a fortune on something a person has just decided they want on top of all their other stuff.

    Gift giving has meaning if you’re giving it for a reason, because you saw something and thought that someone would like it, in which case why does it have to wait until an arbitrary date in the year?

    Gift giving at Christmas and Birthdays is largely driven by consumerism and obligation than any broad sense of generosity or joy.

    This article talks about shopping for people too easy now it can be done in a few clicks. Does the same gift mean more if the person knows you spent hours battling the hordes at the shops? If the gift is selected with thought and love then that is surely the relevant thing, not how you physically got it.

    I asked people to not give me presents years ago as a teenager and ever since the only thing that I am missing in my life is a load of useless tat that I didn’t want and don’t use.

    1. We’ll said. IMHO, it always better to give a gift that is truly wanted than something that will be re-gifted, returned or exchanged. My family has stopped exchanging gifts several years ago and focus on enjoying and appreciating each other instead.

      1. Ditto. Mostly it’s about watching the wide-eyed young grandkids open their presents though they too already have a glut of stuff as indulging parents give them stuff year ’round. Wasn’t like that when I was a kid.

    2. I appreciate the sentiment here but it seems to me that the problem really lies in the sense that we don’t need or want anything, thus making us unapproachable from the gifting standpoint. We don’t need or want anything and we tell people not to get us anything… Generally speaking children enjoy getting gifts just because they are a surprise, it’s secondary what the gift is – too bad we adults have lost the ability to receive, as well as the desire to give just for the joy of giving.

      It’s all just stuff whether we need or want it, or not.

  2. For this year when you fight through the crowds at Macy’s to get someone a Christmas gift, remember to wipe the gift like an underarm roll-on over the smelliest part of your armpits before wrapping it up. Then when they complain about the hoary smell tell them that you had to fight through hordes of shoppers to get the gift (with resultant dripping armpits) rather than clicking on the buy button on Amazon.

  3. Sorry…but I can’t agree with anything in this posting.

    Shopping online means you can get EXACTLY what you want to get without having to settle. The latter happens almost all of the time in brick and mortar stores.

    Second, as the article mentions, there is much less stress associated with online shopping.

    Let’s see…get exactly what you want and have less stress..or not. What should I choose?

    Finally, shopping in physical stores means having to deal with store employees who always know far less about what you’re interested in than you do.

    Again…really stupid article.

  4. I’m sure someone said the same thing when cars made it easier for people to get into town to buy things . . . When people start completely skipping holidays even when distance isn’t an issue and video conference instead I might agree then that technology has stolen something meaningful.

    But if I want an Apple TV or some other gizmo for someone, why the hell not just order it online and let it come to me?

  5. I love shopping on line on Black Friday. Beats getting trampled tasered, stabbed, or even killed by crazed shoppers fighting over products. Spending from the safety of my own home. It gets crazier every year at stores and malls.

  6. Shopping online saves hours if not days. It gives me back time to do fun things with people I care about, and get things done just for me, which I wouldn’t have time to do if it was spent running from store to store.

    Not to mention the intense pain and frustration of being told “We don’t carry that item in stock, we’ll be glad to special order it in, it will only take about a week. RIGHt, I can click once and have it at my house tomorrow.

    Hurray for online shopping!

  7. I’ll never complain if someone gives me a bottle of my favorite wine. Beyond that, if I want something for myself, I buy it. I’m also very picky and usually do research on things before I commit to buying them. So buying for me is a futile thing since the odds are it’s not what I want. I give the kids money since they like to shop anyway, and the get what they want with it.

  8. “by and large, [e-commerce sites] are too easy, too impersonal, and — really — too convenient. ”

    Too easy/impersonal/convenient for?

    As for the emotion, I for one derive plenty of joy in being able to:
    1) get the exact item I actually want to buy
    2) not spend entire days shopping
    3) not have to package everything up
    4) not have to stand in line at USPS or wait for parcel pickup

    I do like the shops like Etsy where things are hand-made or shops like Grommet where small companies sell their goods. But I don’t really need to hear the story of a product to think I would like to have one or that someone I know would enjoy it.

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