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Should we all be using online wish lists for gifting?

should we all be using online wish lists for gifting
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
[It is estimated] that $35 billion is being thrown away, around the world, in the form of poorly chosen Christmas gifts

BBC’s 50 Things That Made The Modern Economy – Santa Claus, December 17th 2018

For a number of years now, I’ve asked people buying me birthday and Christmas gifts to use my Amazon wish list. Indeed, I’ve converted a lot of them to doing the same (and you can put items on from other online retailers too – they don’t have to be Amazon purchases).

But isn’t that pretty boring as there’s no surprise?

In the modern, throw-away economy, struggling with our own consumerism and waste, maybe it’s not such a bad idea. In many cases, well, we’re not very good at buying presents otherwise.

Research suggests that recipients are delighted to receive the gift they’ve already specified. Givers are deceiving themselves that an off-piste choice will be more welcome.

BBC’s 50 Things That Made The Modern Economy – Santa Claus, December 17th 2018

It may not be a surprise someone to get something they’ve already chosen, but you can pretty much guarantee they’ll like it.

Some of the worst gifts I’ve personally received have been those that weren’t from my wish list; items then relegated to the back of the cupboard and sent to a charity shop or simply thrown away. And I’m no better. My wife was always complaining about her phone running out of battery, so I bought her a compact power bank, resplendent in a Cath Kidston-style pattern. If ever a power-bank was made for her, it was this. But she never used it. An unexpected gift it was, but one she had no interest in.

Yes, a wish list is boring and your gifts come with no surprise as a result. But they’re needed items and rarely wasted.

As we get older, many people talk about not exchanging gifts with their family as they don’t need anything more. But does that mean they have everything? Of course not – there’ll always be a DVD or something that they want. Wish lists are a great way to record these little things that we’d like but not necessarily at that point in time. And a great way to remember things that, in the middle of summer, we think would be useful but are forgotten about by the time Christmas is upon us.

Where can I find an online wish list for gifting?

I’ve already mentioned the Amazon Wish List, which is probably the most popular. If you add items from Amazon then it will automatically track and update the price. Using their Amazon Assistant browser add-on, you can also add items from other retailers too – albeit with the price not updating.

Many retailers also have their own wish list feature – e.g. John Lewis – but that will be limited to just their site.

For more “universal” approaches there are a number of options…

  1. addwish
  2. Gift Hero
  3. Giftster
  4. Giftwhale
  6. Things To Get Me
  7. Wishfinity
  9. Wishlistr
  10. wishsite

Which is the best online wish list for gifting?

The honest answer? None of them.

I end up gravitating to Amazon but even that has its problems. For one, a lack of a browser add-on for Safari (which is my browser of choice) and the very real issue that their add-on is not exactly, shall we say, privacy friendly. There are also issues with people not able to remove non-Amazon items that they’ve bought from somebody’s list. As as a result, someone in our family has, more than once, ended up with the same item twice.

However, of those alternatives listed above, they all have major shortcomings: bad interfaces, limited to certain retailers, lacking browser add-ons, etc.

There is a genuine hole in the market right now for a good quality online wish product – a stand-alone one, with add-ons for all popular browsers and that works with all retailers. Considering the money that could be made via advertising, affiliate linking or whatever (think of the targeting that can be done when you know all the things that people really like and want!), then it’s unusual to find such a missed opportunity.

What’s the bottom line?

Online wish lists aren’t the most exciting things to use for gifting, but they reduce unwanted presents and ensure that people get just the things they want. You can add to them throughout the year – as and when you come across something you want – rather than having to remember a few weeks before Christmas or a birthday.

And to finish with one final quote from BBC’s 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy programme that sums it up perfectly…

Even Santa Claus likes to receive a polite wish list from children. Who are the rest of us to think we can do better?

READ NEXT: How do I hack Amazon Wishlists?

About the author

David Artiss

Works for Automattic Inc., the company behind and Tumblr. Tech geek, international speaker and occasional PC Pro podcaster. Lover of Lego and video games.


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  • If you were forced to choose one of these (not Amazon, given Amazon Assistant is going away), which one would you choose?

  • Looks like is the only one that offers the ability to import your existing lists from Amazon. Also appears to have the most features out of all of the ones mentioned above.