I have this one family member whose birthday I miss every year. My streak was at least four years strong. This year I was determined not to miss it. I remembered a month in advance that it was coming. I double checked the date, brainstormed thoughtful gifts, settled on a limited-edition coffee mug, and went online and ordered it. He received it and sent me a thank-you email…three weeks before his actual birthday. How did I so badly overestimate the processing and shipping time? I felt like I managed to mess up his birthday once again.
Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for shopping sites and mobile apps that give customers a hand in determining the right shipping time for a gift or gift card. It’s such a wonderful feature because it helps both organized and disorganized people send gifts at the right time. Organized people can schedule multiple gifts or cards in advance, all in one shot, and be efficient. Disorganized people can do it whenever they remember, even if it’s way in advance. I can’t believe more shopping sites don’t offer it.
Here are a few services I found that let you buy gifts and greeting cards now and ship them later so they arrive at just the right time.
Postable sells affordable greeting cards that you can design using your own photos; you can also pick from a lovely selection of premade cards. Choose a card, type your message, and then choose when you want to send it. The site also has a section called Automated Birthday Cards, where you can choose and write birthday cards for as many contacts as you want up to a year in advance.
Amazon Gift Certificates and iTunes Virtual Goods
When you buy an emailed gift certificate on iTunes or Amazon, you’ll see an option to schedule delivery on any date you choose. The gift certificates are virtual, so recipients won’t actually get anything in the post. But they will get an email with the redemption code on the appropriate day. On iTunes, you can also buy a virtual good—such as a song or a movie—as a gift and schedule delivery up to three months in advance.
While I wish Amazon in particular offered an option for physical goods to be delivered at a time you choose (you can only schedule delivery for very large items that require it), it’s still helpful to know these options for virtual goods and e-gift certificates exists. They’re great when you forget it’s a gift-giving day until the day itself.
If you’re especially forgetful of birthdays, anniversaries, and the like, and you’re terrible at keeping track of people’s mailing addresses, then download the personal assistant app 24me. 24me, which is available as an iPhone app or an Android app, finds special occasions in your calendar and recommends gifts based on the recipient and how much money you want to spend. You can buy a gift and choose a delivery date in advance, but instead of delivering the gift itself, 24me sends the recipient a link to the gift via email. Gift receivers can then choose the appropriate color or size, if applicable, or even cash in the credit toward the gift for something else from the same site. They can also enter their shipping address.
I like the flexibility of 24me’s approach, and I like that you can choose an item to show that you’re thoughtful, but the recipient has the option to get something else if desired. The recommendations for gifts are varied, from best-selling books to nail polish to Starbucks credit.