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Wise To Order Gifts Online Wrapped?

Ordering giftwrapped gifts online
CBS/The Early Show
When buying a gift on the Internet, you can have it sent right to the recipient's door, and that's a real time-saver.

You usually pay for the item, plus tax and shipping charges.

These days, you'll often also be asked whether you want the gift sent gift wrapped.

To see if it's worth the money, AOL Consumer Adviser Regina Lewis ordered from several leading e-tailers, seeking to learn exactly what you get when they wrap your gifts, and what the packages look like whey they show up on a doorstep.

While sending gifts directly to the recipient is convenient, Lewis observed, in the back of your mind you may say, "I hope it looks nice. Because gift-giving is all about packaging and, I'll be honest, it's been mediocre, to date, on the Internet. This year, industry-wide, big emphasis on bigger, better bows, tougher boxes, more creativity. But expect to pay for it. In the past, they gave it away. And there are some exceptions. It's all hit or miss."

Also, she says, "The smaller the item, the more likey givt wrapping will be an option."

The descriptions of the products were prepared with information provided by the manufacturers.

TOYSRUS.COM

Dora the Explorer Ultimate Talking Dollhouse with Dolls and Furniture

$99.00

Come visit Dora the Explorer and her family and friends in this Ultimate Talking Dollhouse from Fisher-Price! Dora's quaint, airy, shingle-roofed "casa" with its mango-colored Spanish exterior seems to say "welcome." Kids will love peeking through the open-air windows, but they'll love it even more when they open it wide and learn new words -- as it talks! There are several places to go, and in each room there are objects kids can select to hear words in English or Spanish. Each room is colorfully and creatively designed to represent Dora's family life. Dora's bright and spacious home is great for pretend play, and it has the added benefit of helping young kids expand their vocabularies! The house comes with Dora, Mami, Papi, Boots, and baby Twins figure packs. Also included are four furniture packs: bathroom, kitchen island, twins' furniture and living room! Manufacturer's Age Recommendation: 3 years and up

LEWIS' THOUGHTS: For many toys that you order online, gift wrapping isn't an option when they are shipped from the manufacturer, as opposed to a toy store. And the result is a gift on your doorstep with the name of item and the word "TOY" on the box. Many customers complain, saying, "You wrecked the secret." When you go to the details page, see where the product is being shipped from. If it says, "Comes in manufacturer's packaging" or shipped direct from the manufactuer, be careful -- consider shipping it to work or a neighbor's house. Also, make sure you say something is a gift, or it could arrive pricetag intact.

AMAZON.COM

Two DVDs were ordered. Gift wrapping available for $3.99 EACH.

Shrek the Third (Widescreen Edition) (2007)
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Justin Timberlake
$14.99

Spider-Man 3 (Widescreen Edition) (2007)
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst
$14.99

LEWIS'THOUGHTS: Amazon says its gift wrapping is redesigned this year, based on customer feedback. In keep with the industry trend, it is more sophisticated. The cost of gift wrapping (as with shipping) depends on the size of the item. Smaller = cheaper. By way of example, gift wrapping for the popular Fisher Price Kid Tough Digital Cameras ($49.95) goes for $4.99. In contrast, a DVD set costs $3.99 to wrap, 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 of items shipped from them or used items from other entities marketed through, but not shipped directly from an Amazon warehouse. An Amazon spokesperson admits they've had customer complaints regarding toys being shipped and the box revealing the contents and ruining holiday surprises. They encourage people to click on the details links to review the specifics. If it says it's shipped in the manufacturer's 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 the percentage of people who take it up on gift-wrapping, but indicated it's significant enough for the No. 1 player in online shopping to substantially staff up to meet holiday demand.

CRATE&BARREL.COM

Lewis ordered four snowman plates and four snowman mugs.
The gift boxing cost an additional $5.50 per box.

Snowman Plate
$6.95
Our gleeful juggling snowman is right in his element, celebrating a fresh snowfall in a peppermint-striped scarf. Porcelain accent plate serves holiday cheer all season long. It's dishwasher-, microwave- and oven-safe.

Snowman Mug
$6.95
Our gleeful juggling snowman is right in his element, celebrating a fresh snowfall in a peppermint-striped scarf. Porcelain mug serves holiday cheer all season long. . It's dishwasher-, microwave- and oven-safe.

LEWIS' THOUGHTS: Crate&Barrel says its utmost priority is to make sure the item doesn't break, especially porcelain mugs and plates. Unless you order the item with the gift boxing, which is an additional, $5.50 everything is packed in a big brown box that looks like you need a U-Haul!

L.L.BEAN.COM

Lewis ordered one Ultra warm Coat, Long
Gift boxing costs $6.00 and, she says, looks good and is a "surprisingly good value" for a large item.

Ultra warm Coat, Long
Chocolate Brown
$169.00
Maine winters put these stylish coats to the test, year after year, so you know they'll keep you warm and dry, no matter where you spend the coldest months. Made of water-repellent and stain-resistant polyester poplin, they're insulated with premium Bean Tested® 650-fill-power down. The removable hood with zip-off faux-fur trim keeps you cozy on blustery days, and a snap closure over the two-way zipper adds extra weather protection. Slightly fitted, with quilting for a flattering slim look. Contrast-color nylon lining. On-seam exterior pockets, interior zip pocket. Imported. Machine wash and dry; hand wash removable faux-fur trim, dry flat. Layer over a miswrite sweater.

REDENVELOPE.COM

Lewis ordered one set of reflective photo coasters.
Gift boxing was $4.95

Reflective photo coasters
$30
Imbibe in your favorite beverage while admiring your favorite people. Each glass coaster holds a 2" square photo, framed in a circular or square setting. The stackable coasters arrive housed in a handsome stand, easily reachable when guests arrive. Coasters are finished with silicon feet to prevent table scratches. Set of four. Choose round or square shape.

LEWIS' THOUGHTS: RedEnvelope is known as the Tiffany of the Internet, and its signature red box is the icing on the cake! You pay a little bit more for the box, but the packaging is really impressive.

J.CREW.COM

Lewis ordered one $25 gift card. Lewis caleld that wrapping "pretty fancy."

The one-size-fits-all gift. Let them be picky. Let them choose the color. Let them try it on for size. Let them get the gift they really want. You choose the amount, they'll choose their gift and we'll send them a gift card along with our most recent catalog and a message from you.
Shipping is complimentary. And gift cards can be redeemed online, on catalog phone orders or in any J.Crew, J.Crew Factory and Crewcuts stores.