With Black Friday and Christmas just a few months away, Amazon is launching a new gift-giving feature that lets you send packages to people using only a phone number or email address. In other words, people can send you packages without your mailing address, and you can’t opt-out.
This feature is exclusive to Prime users in the continental United States, and it’s only available when you use the Amazon mobile app. Gift-givers who enter a recipient’s phone number or email address in lieu of a mailing address will not see where their recipient lives. Also, this feature doesn’t open a line of communication between gift-givers and giftees.
In theory, this new gift-giving feature could be quite useful. Family members move a lot, and it’s hard to keep up with new addresses. Also, you may want to send a friend or coworker a present without asking for their home address—Amazon could provide a nice layer of privacy during the holiday season.
But when asked by The Verge if customers could disable this feature, an Amazon spokesperson said “no.” If someone tries to send you a gift without your address, you will be notified and asked to approve the transaction (or exchange it for a gift card of equal value). You can dismiss or ignore the notification to cancel the transaction, but whether you like it or not, Amazon won’t let you opt-out of its program.
Just from a customer’s perspective, it’s never nice to be forced into a program. But letting people send gifts (or attempt to send gifts) without a recipient’s address isn’t just annoying; it can be dangerous. If you’ve blocked an ex on your phone, for example, they could still harass you by trying to send gifts. This feature could feed into a stalker’s obsessions, or place undue stress on someone who’s recovering from an abusive relationship.
We hope that Amazon offers a clear way for customers to opt-out of this program, because it’s a genuinely useful way to save time when shopping for family or friends. But in the meantime, those who don’t want to participate have just one option—block any numbers or email addresses that Amazon uses to contact you about these kinds of gifts.