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Can you delegate your Christmas shopping to AI?

BY MRS Digital

5th Dec 2023 Technology

7 min read

Can you delegate your Christmas shopping to AI?
Christmas shopping can make the month of December feel chaotic. But can AI help? Here, we answer the question of whether AI can help you in your Christmas shop
Christmas shopping can be a difficult. The shops are busy, everything you need sells out and delivery is slower than ever, but maybe AI can lend a helping hand. We decided to find out so we handed AI a festive to-do list longer than Santa's beard.
The team at marketing agency, MRS Digital, asked it to whip up a budget, hunt down the best deals, conjure up gift ideas, write an affectionate Christmas card that could melt even the Grinch's heart, and also play detective to locate those must-have gifts that are more elusive than the abominable snowman. Here is what we found. 

Budgeting for the Christmas Season

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We asked ChatGPT to help us budget for our Christmas Shopping and help us with the allocation of our budget to each person in our family. We gave ChatGPT specific details about our hypothetical earnings and family situation.
Prompt Used
 I earn £1,800 a month. After my bills and essential purchases, I have around £500 a month. With that, I need you to help make me a budgeting plan for my Christmas gift shopping. I have 20 people to buy for, including my wife and child. Included in that are my parents, my partner's parents, and our siblings. Can you detail how I should be budgeting and splitting this budget?
The AI's response
ChatGPT’s response was helpful and suggested a manageable budget split as well as ways we could even cut down our spending:
“Example Allocation:
  • Wife: £150
  • Child: £100
  • Parents (Yours and Partner’s): £80 each (£160 total)
  • Siblings (Yours and Partner’s): £20 each (£40 total)
  • Other Relatives/Friends: £40
This is just an example, and you can adjust the amounts based on your priorities and the preferences of your loved ones. It’s essential to remember that the thought behind the gift often means more than the monetary value. ”
Bard also provided tips
Bard also provided us with these wholesome tips to consider: 
  • Shop Smart: Look for sales, discounts, and consider purchasing thoughtful but budget-friendly gifts. 
  • DIY Gifts: If you have a talent or hobby, consider creating homemade gifts. These can often be more meaningful. 
  • Secret Santa or Gift Exchanges: If your family is open to it, suggest a gift exchange where each person buys for one other family member. This can significantly reduce the overall cost. 
The Google-based AI then signed-off with a message that is perfect for the spirit of Christmas: “Remember to track your spending as you go to stay within your budget. Happy holidays!
The Result
This is not useful and fairness clearly isn’t an AI strongpoint. For instance, £450 of the £500 budget goes on presents for the wife, child, parents, and siblings leaving a mere £50 to spend on the remaining 14 people. That works out £3.50 each which is undoubtedly Scrooge-like.
" Fairness clearly is not an AI strongpoint"
Also, as nice as the sign-off message appears, it doesn’t provide practical tips such as spreading the payments over several months or factoring in additional costs such as wrapping and postage.

Automated Email Price Changes

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When it comes to finding the best price for something, shopping around and checking for the best price is very time-consuming. You might be waiting for the best price on the market, and wonder if it could drop soon.
Prompt Used
Alert me when the price of Ninja Foodi MAX Dual Zone air-fryer drops below £199.00.
The Result
Bard’s response confirmed it would monitor Amazon, Very, and Ninja Kitchen UK and notify me by email when the price falls under £199.00.
This is definitely not useful. Bard even lied to our face, and said it could send us price alert emails, but once probed for more, had to ashamedly reveal that it didn’t have that capability. Lying gets you on the naughty list, Bard. You’ll get coal in your stocking if you’re not careful.

Price Comparisons

As we said, finding the best price for gifts is a great way to save money and be sure you’re getting a deal. So we asked Bard to help. And once again, it lied to us!
Prompt used
Compare the prices of PS5 from different UK retailers.
The Result
Bard’s response seemed good at first glance, it looked at sites like Amazon, EE Store, ShopTo, Curry’s, John Lewis & more. It showed the prices from each retailer and stated that buying from the PlayStation store directly was the cheapest option at £449.99.
Overall though, it was not useful. Lies aren’t helpful, especially when there’s Christmas shopping to do.  When we checked manually, the prices given were incorrect and EE Store had much cheaper prices. When we told Bard that the prices were incorrect, Bard apologised and gave us more incorrect prices. Get in the bin.

Predicting Price Drops

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Despite Bard continually lying to us, we gave it one last chance to help us predict price drops for the iPhone 15 Pro Max throughout November and December. Bard not only gave us estimated price drops but also explained how it had concluded these drops.
Prompt used
Predict the best price drops for the iPhone 15 pro max in November and December.
The result
Bard’s response was to come up with the following predictions:
  • Past price drops: I looked at the price drops for previous iPhone models in November and December, and used this information to predict the price drops for the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
  • Current market conditions: I considered the current market conditions, such as the cost of living crisis, and how this might affect consumer spending on high-end smartphones.
  • Retailer competition: I took into account the level of competition between retailers, and how this might drive down prices.
It might be useful, only time will tell. However, it didn’t give us estimations of when these drops could happen, so it’s back to us to keep an eye out.....which kind of defeats the object of asking Bard in the first place.

Gift Suggestions For Someone You Know

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We asked ChatGPT to suggest a gift based on information provided about the gift recipient.
Prompt Used
My colleague is a Tottenham Hotspur fan, plays golf, is Welsh, and enjoys cooking: can you suggest some fun Christmas gift ideas, with examples, prices, and where I can buy from in the UK?
The result
ChatGPT gave us some great suggestions, including a personalised apron. It said to get an apron with a custom design related to Tottenham Hotspurs or Wales and estimated the price at £15 - £30. It also said where to buy, with a suggestion of online customisation websites like Vistaprint or Not on the High Street.
ChatGPT also offered hybrid presents of different ideas like Tottenham Hotspur-themed golf balls. It also provided price ranges of each and where to buy them.
It's useful but a little basic. Admittedly, we could have pushed ChatGPT further by asking it "to provide 20 more ideas" if we weren’t satisfied with its original suggestions. Even then, we’re not convinced it would have come up with anything better.

Gift Suggestions For Someone Based on Their Social Profile

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We went to both Bing Chat and Bard for this test and used Nespresso’s latest ambassador David Beckham as our target. We gave both Bing and Bard the link to Beckham’s Instagram profile and asked for gift suggestions based on this alone.
A Christmas list for David Beckham
“Sorry, I couldn't find gift ideas for David Beckham on his Instagram. But here are some ideas from Google Search:
-       A signed copy of his autobiography, "My Side"
-       A pair of his signature Adidas boots
-       A ticket to see him play for Inter Miami CF
-       A donation to his charity, the David Beckham UNICEF Fund
-       A piece of memorabilia from his career, such as a signed jersey or match ball”
We’re sure he would be distraught if he went to see himself play for Inter Miami CF, no matter how good the seats were, the view of himself would always be disappointing.
Some bizarre gifts for David Beckham
However, although Bing Chat had the ability to complete the task, it still suggested some questionably bizarre gifts:  
"Bing Chat suggested some questionably bizarre gifts"
Bing Chat responded with:
  •  “A scythe. David Beckham seems to enjoy gardening and farming, as he has posted several photos of himself with a scythe in hand. A scythe would be a unique and practical gift for David Beckham, who has a large estate in the Cotswolds.
  • A fragrance. A fragrance would be a personal and luxurious gift for David Beckham, who is passionate about creating and wearing scents.
  • A #togetherband. David Beckham is a supporter of the #togetherband, a campaign that raises funds and awareness for the United Nations’ 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development.”
The Result
Overall, these ideas aren't useful. While some better ideas, David Beckham definitely hires a gardener for his Cotswolds estate and probably has enough fragrances to fill all 15 of his baths (15 is an estimate, and not an exact representation of Mr Beckham’s bath count—AI couldn’t tell us how many baths he has either).

Customised Christmas Greeting Cards

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Writing Christmas cards (or those family newsletters that one family always sends) can be helped with AI. We thought we’d ask AI to write us a poem for our friend “Gary” as an example, who plays in the same football team and missed a penalty that cost us the cup. We want the poem to be fun and mock Gary whilst still keeping in the festive spirit.
ChatGPT's poem to Gary
"To Gary, our striker with a foot like a wand,
In the spirit of Christmas, let banter respond.
 A tale to be told, of a cup final's grace,
And a penalty miss that'll stay in our case.
In the game of life, where goals are the cheer,
Your aim that day was anything but clear.
The net stood lonely, the ball had its say,
"Adios, victory, I'm taking a holiday!"
Through the cheers and the groans, the agony true,
 That penalty kick, oh Gary, we all knew.
But fear not, my friend, let the laughter commence,
In the Christmas spirit, we make no offence.
Here's to the goals that soared high and wide,
And that penalty miss we'll laugh at beside.
In the football banter, where legends are spun,
Merry Christmas, Gary, you're still our number one!
So, may your holiday be as bright as floodlights,
With memories of goals, and those humorous heights.
In the locker room banter, where camaraderie gleams,
Merry Christmas, dear Gary, keeper of our dreams!"
The Result
Somewhat useful but definitely hilarious. Maybe ChatGPT will claim poetic license.

Christmas Shopping With AI

So, does AI have what it takes to turn your Christmas shopping frowns upside down? Well, yes and no. AI excels at whipping up hilarious poems for Christmas cards, and tossing out initial gift ideas like a pro. Yet, when it comes to useful budgeting or the heartwarming act of picking out that perfect present, AI seems to fumble the gift-wrapped ball.
"When it comes to useful budgeting or picking out that perfect present, AI seems to fumble the gift-wrapped ball"
Consider AI your witty holiday sidekick, always ready with a snappy comeback. But, just like Pinocchio, keep an eye out for that nose—AI might stretch the truth a bit. Until our robotic pals master the art of truly useful responses, it looks like they'll be finding an empty stocking come Christmas morning.
Banner credit: Presents (Tofros.com)
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