Looking for a cool present in a pretty package? AOL Consumer Advisor Regina Lewis shares the best shopping sites with under-$50 items that strike the delicate balance of being good buys without looking like cheap gifts.
Amazon.com (availability and prices vary)
Amazon.com redesigned their gift wrapping service this year based on customer feedback. In keeping with the industry trend, it is more sophisticated. The cost of gift wrapping (as with shipping) depends on the size of the item, with smaller equals cheaper. For example, gift wrapping for the popular Fisher Price Kid Tough Digital Cameras, $49.95, goes for $4.99. By contrast, a DVD set cost $3.99 and larger items can run higher and with much lower odds of availability.
Also, expect the possibility of it being packaged in a blue sack, especially if the shape is odd. Gift cards — the kind you enclose, not the kind with monetary value — are free whether you opt to wrap or not.
A surprising amount of items are not available for gift wrapping. Amazon has a lot of partners these days and all bets are off when it comes to gift-wrapping on items shipped from them or used items from other entities marketed through, but not shipped directly, from an Amazon warehouse. An Amazon spokesperson admitted they've had customer complaints regarding toys being shipped and the box revealing the contents, thereby ruining the gift surprise.
Amazon encourages people to click on the itmes' details links to review the specifics. If it says it's shipped in the manufacturers box, you're taking a risk. If Amazon is boxing it, you'll see the Amazon logo but nothing more. If it's a gift, you'll be prompted to say so in the checkout process and you can opt to have the price of the item not displayed on the enclosed paperwork — the equivalent of getting a traditional gift-receipt.
Amazon declined to share what percentage of people take them up on gift-wrapping, but indicated it's significant enough for the #1 player in online shopping to substantially staff up to meet holiday demand.
Walmart ($3.88 for most items)
Walmart will offer some types of gift packaging in — you guessed it — blue & white. Some items are wrapped, others placed in a bag and some items — like DVDs — are slipped in a sleeve.
Interestingly, Walmart.com offers more than half a million items online, most of which are not carried in stores. "Site to Store" is the new thing they're pushing (buy online and pick up in store). It earns you free shipping and is eligible on tens of thousands of items sold at Walmart.com. Why? Because industry analysts estimate 26% of people who order online and pick up in-store buy more when they get there. It's Retail 101. A Walmart spokesperson told us customer response to "Site to Store" is very strong – it now accounts for more than 1/3 of Walmart.com’s sales and Walmart estimates customers have saved more than $25 million in shipping fees by using the service. An amazing stat.
$7.50 was the gift wrapping cost for a small piece of jewelry. We were shocked to find we couldn't even get silk pajamas featured in the "gift guide section" wrapped. It seems odd they would promote gift ideas and then refuse certain options at the checkout process. In their stores you'll have more options.
$5.00 gift boxes (not wrapping) are widely available with the exception of "odd" size items like shoes. Up to two items can be included in an individual box. Boxing items does not increase shipping charges. But, if you're buying four items, you're looking at $10 (2 boxes at $5 each).
This site prides itself on gift wrapping. You can ask for the materials and "self wrap" for $2.00 (a good value given the quality) or have many items wrapped for $4.00.
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