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The Wonder of Tech: Karma is your gift connection

Karma, a new service that launched in February, allows you to send people gifts using their email addresses, cell phone numbers and Facebook accounts – all from your smartphone.

Among the gifts that you can send to friends and family via Karma are cupcakes.
Among the gifts that you can send to friends and family via Karma are cupcakes.Read more

'Tis the Season! That's right, the holiday season is upon us. No, it's not December, but Spring, the season for Mother's Day, Father's Day, graduations, weddings and anniversaries.

It's easy to get overwhelmed with all of the gift-giving occasions coming up, but a new tech tool is designed to make gift giving convenient and fun.

I recently spoke with Karma CEO Lee Linden about the new service and what he has learned during the first two months of operation. "Karma is a form of communication. People use it to share a sentiment, to say, 'Congratulations,' 'I love you,' 'I miss you,' 'Happy birthday,' 'I'm so sorry,' and 'Feel better.' "

Linder said things are off to a strong start with thousands of Karma gifts having been delivered during the past two months. "The average Karma user has given three gifts in the first two months we've been in business. We're nothing if our users don't enjoy our service. By using it more than once, our users are showing us that they're happy, " Linden explained.

The idea of the app is to solve your gift-giving problems. It doesn't matter if you don't know a friend's size, tastes, address, or favorite color. It doesn't even matter if you wait until the last minute to send a gift. Karma has you covered.

Karma's beautifully crafted app combines high-quality images with an intuitive design. It's clean and simple and quickly makes you forget that you're viewing these gifts on a smartphone's small screen.

Gift Ideas

Karma suggests gifts according to the occasion, such as a holiday, birthday, thank you, wedding, hostess gift, tough days, etc. (note that Karma wisely suggests that chocolate is an appropriate gift for almost any occasion). You can also browse gifts by category, including Foodie, Geek, Host, Quirky, Romantic, Eco-Friendly, Trendsetter, Baby, and others. Karma lets you select the price range on a sliding scale so you can narrow your search to items within your budget.

"Karma shows you a list of curated products targeted to the occasion and the demographic of who you're sending the gift to," explained Linden. But you can search through all of the products if you think your friend would like a gift outside their demographic.

If you connect your Facebook account, Karma will suggest gift ideas based upon your friend's demographics or their Facebook posts. The app will note when one of your friends is getting "congratulations" or "condolences" posts on their Facebook Timeline and suggest gifts for that person.

Sending Gifts

One of the most compelling features of Karma is that you don't need to know a person's address to send a gift to them. If a bride is changing her name and moving to a new home, no worries, you can easily send her a gift with Karma. You can use her email address, cell phone number or Facebook account to send a Karma gift. This feature also comes in handy for sending gifts to graduates, people who recently moved and online friends if you don't know their addresses. Your friend can decide whether she wants her gift sent to her home or office.

Linden says that the majority of Karma gifts are sent via text message. The time it take for a recipient to open a gift varies based upon the method of delivery. "Facebook on average takes about a day. Email takes about four to five hours. Text takes about 60 seconds. So if you're thinking of someone and want to send them a gift using Karma via text message, they will generally see it within a minute," Linden explained.

You can also schedule when you want your gifts to be sent, so you can take care of a couple of month's worth of gifts in one sitting. The app allows you to schedule in advance a gift to be delivered at a later date.

Let Them Choose

You don't have to know a person's size, favorite color or other preferences to send them a Karma gift. Karma has a "Let Them Choose" feature that allows you to personalize the gift but still lets the recipient make a selection according to their preferences. For example, you can give a gift of wine and let your friend decide whether they want Chadonnay, Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc. Or, if you find out that a friend just got their first iPhone, you can send a case and let them pick out the style. Linden said that more than a third of users let the recipients choose their specific gifts.

If you totally miss the mark and your friend doesn't like the gift, she can exchange it for any other Karma gift or donate it to charity. The giver is not notified of the exchange, only that her friend accepted the gift. Linden said that about 25% of the recipients exchange their gifts for another Karma gift.


Karma also lets you donate to a charity as a gift and also allows the recipient to trade his gift to a charity, with 100% of the gift going to the charity. Currently the charity for Karma is Charity Water, but Linden anticipates adding other charities to the app. According to Linden, about 8% of recipients donate their gifts to charity.

Sample Gifts

Some people can easily pick out the perfect gifts, but if you want gift ideas, Karma has some interesting ones. Some of the unique gifts include a DNA genome test kit (good for those trying to research their ancestry), a personal driver from Uber (for those who want to feel like a celebrity for the evening), a Netflix subscription (for the film buff), an Andy Warhol print (a good candidate for Let Them Choose), an OCD cutting board (for cooks who like to be precise when they chop), Gund bears (not for kids only), and a selection of wine and chocolates.

Payment Feature

Another impressive feature of the app is that you don't have to pay for a gift until the recipient opens and accepts it and enters their address. For your first gift, you don't provide credit card information to Karma until after your friend has accepted the gift. The service saves your credit card information for future purchases. According to Linden, the number of gifts being given through Karma doubled after using the app for the first time.

As of now, Karma is available only in the U.S., requiring both a U.S. credit card and a U.S. shipping address. Linden hopes to expand beyond the US borders in the future.

Bottom Line

If you're looking for an easy, creative and fun way to give gifts, whether last-minute or ahead of time, check out Karma to take the headaches out of gift-giving.

Karma is available for free for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch in the iTunes App Store and for Android Devices in Google Play.

Carolyn Nicander Mohr is a Chester County resident and the creator of a website, the Wonder of Tech. Contact her at