Holiday wish lists go online to make gift giving and getting virtually easy

santa and elfToo big for Santa's lap this year -- or does the whole idea just sort of creep you out? If you're not up for waiting in line at the mall, and the man-in-red isn't returning your emails, there's another way to get your wish list heard -- without bribing the big guy with cookies and schnapps (or is that just me?).,,, and are free, one-stop, all-occasion gift registries that allow members to create wish lists from an unlimited number of online retailers. Instead of slogging through site after site, Kris Kringle can find out exactly what you -- or the kids -- are dreaming of this year. also allows members to prioritize items with helpful phrases such as: "I want it", "I really, really want it", "I wouldn't mind having it", and "I neeeed it" (this last comment referring to one subscriber's desperate plea for a certain cell phone strap). whether or not you've been naughty or nice is still something you'll have to take up with Santa.

One of the hippest and most ambitious of the resources, Wishpot wants to go farther than merely offering a well-detailed wish list. The site also aims to offer social networking opportunities, product reviews, ratings, price alerts and comparison shopping. Their product search is powered by Another feature unique to this site is the "Most Popular" section, which showcases items listed most often by your virtual neighbors. Currently, the Wii console, iPhone, Sex and the City: The Complete Series, Canon EOS 400D camera, and Sony Playstation top the list. Keeping up with the Joneses has officially gone global.

In addition to noting the most coveted items, Wishpot also offers "hand-picked wish list ideas" chosen from the site's shopaholic expert, "Gift Girl." Touted as great ideas for "you or someone you know," Gift Girl (who has 9,371 online friends and counting) categorizes her suggestions into groups with names like "My Geek," "New Dad," "Luxury Items," "Under $50 Gift Ideas," and "fun stuff."

Some examples: stainless steel chopsticks, the 2007 BMW 5 Series, an REI membership, an LED shower light that flashes different colors, handmade jewelry from, and the Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters, to name a few.

In case you've still missed something, Wishpot encourages members to "get ideas" from other people's lists. I suppose in the pursuit of finding true happiness. Members may also choose to restrict their lists and keep them private. Everyone is welcome to recommend their "favorite stuff," or ask the community for opinions and advice on merchandise.

Although I have a pretty good idea of what my needs are this year, I thought I should check out what other people are asking for in case I'm not thinking big enough. I clicked randomly on a Facebook-style profile photo of a cool, tie-dye-wearing young couple to see what they want. They have cleverly organized four lists to identify his, hers, theirs and baby's wants and needs. It felt completely voyeuristic and vaguely intrusive scrolling through the personal wish lists of complete strangers. It was also sort of amazing what you could surmise about people by the things they would like to receive. Margaret Mead would have had a field day. Turns out, the outdoorsy young family is dreaming of one of those pop-up canopy shade structures. I have to admit, it's a great idea and something I hadn't considered putting in my own letter to Santa. Maybe there is something to this after all.

If the soul searching, sharing, comparing, and online shop crawling fail to yield a sufficient representation of gift ideas, Wishpot doesn't disappoint. There is more. "Chipin" is the site's new service that allows members to list big-ticket items (think: honeymoon cruise, couch, sports car, large appliances or house down payment) to which cash gifts can be contributed through PayPal. The recipient will be alerted by email each time a contribution is made to the fund. provides a similar online service. Gogift is an all-cash gift registry that touts its service as the "tasteful" way to well, go. Among its benefits, the site lists: "Allowing the receiver to make a significant, meaningful purchase and eliminate the hassle of unwanted gifts." For the giver, Gogift points out that their option is the "green (pun intended?) and clean" choice for giving: "Alleviating the impact upon landfill and waste management facilities." It is also a, "simple alternative ... and allows the comfort of gifting from home or office." It may not be romantic, or make the person feel warm and fuzzy as they click and transfer funds, but it certainly is practical. In this year of the great recession, it might be exactly what some people want.

The problem remains, however, as to how to "gracefully" alert friends and family to the fact your wish list has gone high tech. I suppose one might update their Facebook status, "Finished entering my wish list on!", or send a tweet or text, "Gr8 news C wht i luv" Still, it's a risky prospect and you may wind up with a lump of coal from someone. Even, which has thoughtfully provided a gift-giving "Etiquette Corner" on its website, fails to offer a solution for this dilemma.

In the end, the decision to go virtual -- or not -- is as personal as your taste in stores and gift wrap. How you finesse letting your preferences be known is equally as personal. The Internet invites gaffes and glories -- it's a sure bet that we'll win some, we'll lose some. My two cents, be grateful not grabby (and thank you notes never hurt).
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