Wednesday, May 15, 2013

a proposal about the consequences of proposals...

I ran into an acquaintance, C., the other day; she's a part of our sheep-and-goat circle of friends, and the breeder of a couple of our sheep.  She was about as happy--and frantic--as could be.  She's extra busy at her job, which is growing in both duties and rewards; she's moving, having bought a farm that, while it is much better suited to her needs, needs new fences; and, she's getting married.

Talking with her, it seemed that the one raincloud on her horizon was the need to get rid of a lot of stuff (because her new house is somewhat smaller than her current house) and to get rid of yet more stuff (because both she and her sweetie have separate, complete households and they only need one).  Added to this, people seem to want to give her even more stuff because she's getting married, and working from a registry and giving newlyweds stuff is what we do in this society.

After discussing the issue for a bit, we may have hit upon a solution.  It won't require much additional work from C. or anybody else, it will clear some clutter, and it should allow people to satisfy their social urges to pile up fancily-wrapped boxes on a table at the wedding reception.

Here's the scheme.  C. takes a picture of every thing she would be rid of--a stack of bowls, a set of china, the toaster, a chair, tchotchkes, and so on.  She can figure out a price for each thing, probably steeply discounted.  She also makes rough measurements of the item, and if feeling moved, writes a brief description in her finest catalog-ese (e.g. "This handsome, smaller-than-life ceramic dog was hand-crafted by skilled artisans in Mexico; his slightly skewed grin will remind you of carefree nights in the tropics, while his significant heft will guarantee that papers placed under him will never blow away.  He may not fetch, but he sure can collect dust.")  She then dodges past Bloomingdale's and Nieman-Marcus and Cabela's, and makes her own registry for wedding invitees to look at.  She then forgets about it, and returns to fretting about her wedding dress or whatever brides do (C. is more likely to work on fences for her new property). 

The lucky people who get an invite to C.'s wedding also get a link to her registry, where they see what they'd see at any registry: a list of items with associated prices.  They choose something--first come, first served, so don't delay!--and the item is no longer in the registry.  They receive an automatic email that informs them of the size box needed to hold the item, and a chit that they will put in the box.  They also put the suggested price of the item--or less, if they're poor, or more, if generous--in the box, preferably in a red envelope.  Their job, then, is to wrap the box (like they would for any wedding gift) and bring it to the reception.

Ah, the blessed wedding day!  Look at the radiant bride and the grinning groom!  Look at the buffet!  Look at the stack of presents they got--wowza!  In the traditional scheme, bride and groom spend the better part of a subsequent day opening boxes and trying to make sure that the card stays with the item, or noting which uncle gave the day-of-the-week tablecloth collection.  In the new scheme, C. and her sweetie spend the day opening boxes, happily collecting the contents of red envelopes.  Even more happily they read the chits and fill the boxes with no-longer-needed household goods, and thanks to the registry, they have a complete record of who is connected to what.

The filled boxes become the responsibility of the wedding invitees; they have to pick them up, or arrange for their pickup, whether by UPS, Goodwill, or buddy with a pickup truck.  Given enough technical savvy, I'm sure that some system could be arranged on the registry to make the chit a pre-paid shipping label.  Recipients of the boxes don't have to keep the "gifts"--they can donate them to whatever charity they wish, or burn them.  Whatever happens, they are no longer C.'s problem.  As I figure it, making problems disappear--and cash in a red envelope--are about the best gifts you can give newlyweds. 

Despite its logic and practicality, there is something about human nature that makes me doubt this scheme will catch on.  Oh well.  It's out there, and it just needs a snappy name (deregistry?  leave suggestions in the comments) and maybe it can go viral. 

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