ThinkGeek’s Crappy Wishlist

I’ve always found the Wishlist concept to be cool, especially as Amazon implements it. I love it when the developer of a plugin or software I use links to their Wishlist because then I can buy them something personal, it seems less crude than a Paypal donate link where you’re putting an explicit price on things.

The other day Kent Brewster found a JS problem on I was browsing his FAQ and saw this: “My ThinkGeek Wish List is always open.”

If you click that link, you’ll see in red letters: “To shop from this wishlist, please add items to your cart using this form only! Otherwise, your gifts will not be removed from this wishlist, and the recipient may get duplicates.”

Okay — a little weird, but ThinkGeek’s home-grown shopping cart has always been a little odd, I’ll run with it. I add it to my cart from that form, go to the checkout form and sign in (I’ve spent lots of money with ThinkGeek over the years), and complete the order. (How to Survive a Robot Uprising, for the record.)

So I send an email to their customer support: “I ordered something off someone’s wishlist, order e5886bb4. Everything in the order looks like it’s being shipped to me, not the recipient. Could you confirm it’s going to this guy’s wishlist and not me?” I then linked to the wishlist. Next morning, a response:

This order is being shipped to [my address redacted]
United States
That was the address entered when the order was placed.

Tracy G
Customer Service

Not helpful at all… my reply: “Why would I buy something off someone else’s wishlist and then ship it to me? If it can’t be shipped to the person who made the wishlist, then please cancel it.”

No response, and two days later the order ships, to me. This morning, a final response from Tracy:

Mr. Mullenweg,
When the order is placed the order you had the option of entering an alternate ship to address.
Since your order has already shipped we can not change or cancel the order.

Tracy G
Customer Service

Given the next-day shipping I paid extra for, the book should be arriving any day now. The whole point of a wishlist is that I don’t know Kent’s address, nor should I need to. Also the big red sentence on the wishlist page implied to me that Kent would get anything I order from that specific form/page, otherwise why would I need to add it to my cart specifically from that spot?

To Kent, my apologies. If the robot uprising comes before I’m able to get you this book and we both die in the aftermath I’ll buy you a drink.

To ThinkGeek, you’re cooler and smarter than this. Please fix your wishlist functionality.

To everyone else, set up a wishlist on Amazon. It works, and if you link to it from your blog and do nice things people may order from it for you, and there’s nothing nicer than a surprise Amazon box showing up at the door.

23 thoughts on “ThinkGeek’s Crappy Wishlist

  1. I like the idea of a wishlist. And thought it cool that you got a person, or tried to get a person, a gift for helping out. Shows class.

    That said, I saw a plugin a while ago that allowed you to make a wishlist for anywhere… and I liked that idea… if they could of fixed the address issue. (The one failing for some of the wishlist sites I’ve seen.) For example I’ve seen t-shirts (cheap $5 and $10 ones) that I’ve thought of throwing on one of those… but they would still need the addy.

    ok that off my chest… I like those paypal donation plugins that allow you to by the person a beer (or drink of choice). That way when you offer to buy the person a beer, you can. I just wish you could customize a bit more. Have multiple options.

    Enough of that… but on aside. What is your thoughts of contact info on an about page?

  2. Ouch, Matt! Here ya are, the holiday-glow not quite gone, the bracing expectations of a New Year still fresh, resolutely herding v2.something to its date with destiny … and this? That is not right.

    Must have been vexing … but really I was tuned on the finer points of web-giving that you nicely vignette. The PayPal click is, yeah, that word.

    And just not long ago I was looking at some guy’s GPL project, and he has this nice sidebar made up – “Like what I’m doing here?” – and a thumbnail of a fascinating-sounding book, with of course a link to his wishlist on Amazon.

    On the strength of his intriguing taste in books, I went and spent a chunk of time belonging to something else, perusing the introductions & reviews of his well-selected list.

    Yeah, the wishlist puts it all on a much better plane.

    Ted Clayton

  3. And this is one of the reasons I’ve never ordered from ThinkGeek (I also think many of their products are overpriced, especially for t-shirts) – I always got an uneasy feeling that the foundation wasn’t so solid (the site code that is).

  4. I got duplicates of a gift from thinkgeek 2 Christmases ago. I emailed them at least 5 times asking if I could return one of the items for credit, but got no response to any of my messages.

    I haven’t shopped there since, and won’t again.

  5. Yeah, I love ThinkGeek – they have some awesome geek stuff that makes me smile, but I’ve never ordered and probably will never do so. As stated, the whole system feels … funky. It would have been much wiser for them if they implimented someing like OSCommerce of Zen and then customized it from there. That way they have a system that people are used to (since osc is a very generic user system) and they have a system that is EXTREMELY customizable. And since they’re obviously coders, they should have no problem pouring over the code.

    Ah, but I suppose this is the price of innovation at times. They, no doubt, feel this system is perfect and works great. But since they designed it, of course they know how to use it! But … dumb way to do a wishlist!

  6. I ordered my girlfriend a glowing crystal pendant from Think Geek for valentines day a couple of years back and when it turned up it was broken. I mailed them to ask for return details and they replied apologising for the inconvenience, saying not to bother with returning it and that they’d dispatched a new one.

    I thought that was pretty decent of them, but I’d agree that their cart system is a little flakey.

  7. I placed my first order from ThinkGeek this past Christmas season. I really don’t like their rewards program. Yes, it’s nice to get something for “free” from them if you place an order. But you can’t get lots of the little things for free if you have a ton of points accumulated in your account, just one free thing per order.

    I did compare their prices with other online shops, and ThinkGeek ended up being least expensive for me in total. Not by a lot, but they were least expensive.

  8. Matt, I loved the link to the list of 100 interesting news stories of 2007! I write an inspirational humor column for newspaper, and found more than a dozen article ideas from that list! Thanks!

    Any idea where I can find more such lists? Perhaps from 2006 and before?

    Keep up the good work. 😉

  9. Hi Matt,

    Ok I’ll be the first to admit that our wishlist pretty much stinks. Sadly, we don’t have the ability to ship to a wishlist-recipient’s address ala Amazon. Fixing that has been on our internal “wishlist” for a long time now. To address other posters’ concerns, our code really is quite stable and secure. Unfortunately though, the business is run “lean and mean”, to use a stale phrase, and it makes it difficult to update the code with bells and whistles, much less add real useful functionality like the wishlist stuff you mentioned.

    I’m not a developer, but I will do my best to try to get some site enhancements out the door this year, or I may just die trying.

    Thanks to everybody who has feedback, we really want to make you guys and gals happy. If you ever have any concerns, complaints, etc. please don’t hesitate to email them to me directly at jen at my domain. I may not own the company anymore, but I can do my best to get your voices heard. thanks!

  10. @Aaron:
    We contacted Larry Osterman and realized our mistake. You can see our response here:
    Everybody makes mistakes, and we try to correct them when we find them. I hope we did right by Larry.

    Email me and I’ll get you a credit. I’m really sorry your emails went unanswered. We answer every email we get, so most likely our overzealous spam filter was to blame. Thanks!!

  11. I like the wishlist-link far more than the paypal-buttons. Some time ago i decided not to sign up for paypal. This is pretty much the only way to donate to some projects. This really annoys me because to some projects i would really like to donate a few bucks.
    In some cases it’s even the only payment method in shops. What can i say? Those shops just lost a customer.

  12. OMG – that is disheartening, since most of your Christmas t-shirts (from me) for the last two years have been from Thinkgeek!!!
    I was surprised by their new points system, and a little disappointed that I couldn’t add those points to the order that I was making. Unfortunately, despite their fun products, I only use them once a year.
    I was a little nervous about buying from them again this year, because they took a month to ship last Christmas, but they were so communicative during all that, that I decided to use them again.
    Here’s an idea for you developers out there: Amazon has that lovely Gift Center (with links to other’s wish lists), and the lovely Recommendations page (for your own account) – why can’t they marry the two? I would love to see a list of recommendations for gifts for others based on their actual purchases.
    Hmmmmm…in thinking of this, it might have to be an option or something where they allow individual purchases to be included…

  13. The idea of saying thank you via a wish list is wonderful. Wouldn’t it be great that instead of allowing ads on, there was a tie in with or a similar “good” wish list service so bloggers could have their wishes granted as compensation for their blogging services for readers. I can think of a few great bloggers I’d love to say thank you to for their great work.

  14. I’ve always had a weird feeling about the ThinkGeek website. I have a wishlist there, but never send it to my friends/family when birthday times rolls around. Guess my intuition was correct about it!

    I love Amazon and I love looking at others wishlists. In addition to purchasing an item from someone’s Amazon wishlist to say “Thank you”, I’ve also purchased items for them “just because”. 🙂 In fact, an item I recently got for a friend “just because” should be arriving today!

  15. It’s worth mentioning, too, that the customer service rep’s responses to you definitely qualify as b*tchy… To me, that would magnify the problem greatly. “Our error…your problem. Have a great day! Muah, theTrace”

  16. I am currently having problems with Think Geek. I recently purchased a hacker work shirt which they were displaying an image on the information that showed all the sizes. When I ordered I was never given the option of what size to choose and I never noticed this. After paying I realized that I had purchased a Small shirt which is useless to me as I needed a Large. Instantly I emailed them and they replied telling me to cancel the order, I looked everywhere and there was no option to cancel, I dont know if this was because I paid with paypal or if they make it really hard to find. Then I emailed them back and they said that I will have to RMA it after I receive it….. ok but you havent shipped it yet, so why should I have to waste money on shipping when I live in Canada and it is going to cost a lot. I asked them to please replace it with a shirt that they had in my size or cancel it. They then replied that it has already been packaged and they cannot do that. So now I am being shipped a shirt that is not going to fit me because of a deceiving item listing. The worst part about it is that I contacted them instantly after purchasing and they were still not able to sort this out for me. This is very poor customer support and to me seems like they were really trying to get rid of their small stock of this specific shirt. I have informed them that my friends and I will never buy from them again as they dont care about their customers, they only care about getting there stock out of the ware house and getting your money in their pocket. So now after shipping and tax I have paid $50 cdn for something that is absolutely useless to me, maybe it will fit my nephew.