Karma: Your Gift Connection!

by on April 19, 2012 · 35 comments

‘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.

Karma is a new service launched in February that allows you to send people gifts from your smartphone. Karma gifts are real world, physical gifts that arrive on doorsteps, even if you don’t know someone’s physical address. Karma provides hundreds of high-quality, unique and fun gifts to choose from within the app.

I recently spoke with Lee Linden, the CEO of Karma, about the new service and what he has learned during the first two months of its existence. “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.’”

The business is 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 is a beautifully crafted app with high-quality images and an intuitive design. The app is clean and simple and quickly makes you forget that you’re viewing these gifts on the small screen of a smartphone.


Gift Ideas

Karma suggests gifts according to the occasion, such as a holiday, birthday, thank you gift, 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 the products if you think your friend would like a gift outside of his demographic.

If you connect your Facebook account, Karma will suggest gift ideas based upon your friends’ demographics or their Facebook posts. The app will note when your friends are getting “congratulations” or “condolences” posts on their Facebook Timeline and suggest gifts based on the posts.

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 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 to make a selection according to their preferences. For example, you can give a gift of wine and let your friend decide whether he wants Chardonnay, Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc. Or, if you find out that a friend just got her first iPhone, you can send her a case and let her pick out the style. Linden said that over 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 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 the 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 the gift, accepts it and enters her address. For your first gift, you don’t even have to give your credit card information to Karma until after your friend has accepted the gift. The service saves your credit card information so you don’t have to enter it each time you want to give a gift. According to Linden, the number of gifts being given through Karma doubled after they initiated the delayed payment feature. Over 90% of users pay immediately after they are notified that their friend has accepted their gift.

As of now, Karma is US only, requiring both a US credit card and a US 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 was purchased by Facebook soon after this review was published and is no longer available as an app.

Do you like the idea of giving gifts using an app? Have you ever struggled to send a gift because you didn’t know the person’s address? Do you like the “Let Them Choose” feature? Let us know in the Comments section below!


Comments on this entry are closed.

Adeline April 19, 2012 at 10:56 am

There’s a cool app! I’m glad it hasn’t landed in India coz I would simply find excuses to send gifts and will have to answer my mom for the expenses i’ll probably rack up! Mobile shopping is so impulsive!
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr April 19, 2012 at 11:36 am

Hi Adeline, You’re right, this is a very cool app! It’s not in India yet, but hopefully soon. :-)
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April 19, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Instant gratification and convenience is what this world is becoming Carolyn. The age of technology has arrived and at the click of a button you can send anything to anyone anywhere. Now that’s what I call progress.

So happy to hear that it’s also on the iPod Carolyn. At the beginning of your post it said it was for Smartphones so I definitely had to read all the way to the end to see if some of the rest of use were going to be included. Yey!!! I’m downloading this one.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr April 19, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Hi Adrienne, I think you’ll really like this app. The design reminds me of Pinterest a bit because it’s so aesthetically pleasing.

But who cares how it looks if it doesn’t function well? The developers have done a great job of selecting the gifts, and adding features that are simple to use yet highly functional.

I hope you enjoy using Karma, Adrienne!
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Praveen Rajarao
April 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Wow..what a name for an app, Karma!!!! Not sure why they have it as “Karma Science” though :-)

Nicely done Carolyn, as usual, you have listed out all the important features and settings that one needs to know before installing this app. I am sure this will be helpful for everyone of us looking out for last minute gifts.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr April 19, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Hi Praveen, Thanks, I was really impressed with the Karma app when I saw it. The developers are doing a great job of making gift-giving as easy as possible. I just sent my husband a Father’s Day present using Karma. It’s very easy and convenient!
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Carol Lynn
April 19, 2012 at 4:11 pm

I haven’t heard of this app, but for a total tech geek who only shops via screen, this sounds like a charm! I recently wanted to send a gift to a new Twitter friend based on a conversation we’d been having, but I didn’t know her address (and sometimes it’s creepy to ask, especially if it’s someone new) and I had to jump through all sorts of hoops to get a vendor to send a gift certificate via email. This sounds like an app-dream come true. Thanks for discussing this in so much detail and so clearly because you’ve made a believer out of me and I haven’t even tried it yet! Here’s to lots of good karma coming your way…
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr April 19, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Hi Carol Lynn, That’s a great example of where Karma would come in handy! You’re right, sending a gift to an online friend can be challenging. You haven’t met in real life so asking for their home address can be, as you said, creepy. Before Karma you were limited to sending them gift certificates, but with Karma you can send them actual physical gifts without knowing their address.
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Bryce Christiansen April 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Hi Carolyn,

You are completely right. It is the shopping season once again…at least for me. In my family all my siblings and my father have birthdays in June and July. So there will be plenty of shopping to come.

I will definitely be checking this out.

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Carolyn Nicander Mohr April 19, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Hi Bryce, Well this is perfect timing for you!

A few minutes ago I received a notice from Karma that a gift was sent to me by one of my best friends. Wow, let me tell you, it feels great to get a Karma gift! I can personally attest to how great this app is. :-bd

I’m sure your family members will enjoy receiving your Karma gifts just as much as I did, Bryce!
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Bill Dorman
April 19, 2012 at 8:47 pm

What will they think of next? Instant karma is going to get you……….

Do you need to know my top choices?
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr April 19, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Hey Bill, Okay, I think we can rule out the Uber personal driver since you’re already a celebrity. :-)
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Bill Dorman
April 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm

And it’s becoming harder and harder to go out in public these days……the mobs of people are just ridiculous…………:)
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Steven Papas April 19, 2012 at 9:26 pm

This has got to be one of the most amazing apps I’ve discovered in a long time. This is a combination of impressive technology with social connectivity with merchandise and I’m going to be telling everyone I know of about it.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr April 19, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Hi Steven, You’re absolutely right. There are a lot of reasons to be excited about this app, it’s a game changer. I’ve now given and received gifts with it and it really is fantastic.

Thanks for sharing your impressions with us, Steven!
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Sylvia April 20, 2012 at 2:27 am

Karma sure looks like a very cool and clever app for gift giving ideas! Hope it expands outside the US in the near future. Would love to try it out! :)

Carolyn Nicander Mohr April 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Hi Sylvia, I know Karma has plans to expand outside the US. They only got started two months ago but they’re doing very well. I’m thinking they will be outside the US sooner rather than later by popular demand!
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Ruth Zive April 20, 2012 at 10:27 am

Wow, Carolyn – it sounds like Karma even better than giving CASH! But alas, it’s US only, and as you know…I’m in Canada :-(. I’ll have to stick to cash!

Carolyn Nicander Mohr April 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Hi Ruth, Yes, I have to say, when I received a Karma gift last night from one of my best friends, I was deeply touched and truly thrilled. It was a lot of fun to receive the gift in such an unexpected way.

I hope that Karma expands to Canada soon, Ruth, so you can have an alternative to cash! : :-bd
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Cindy April 20, 2012 at 10:30 am

This is really cool! Moreover, giving nice gifts may bring you ‘good karma’, lol :)
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr April 21, 2012 at 9:51 am

Hey Cindy, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! Lol, good point. Giving gifts certainly can’t hurt your Karma, right?

Thanks for stopping by The Wonder of Tech. Have a great weekend! :-)
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Missy April 20, 2012 at 12:13 pm

I always have the hardest time finding cool and fun gifts for my friends. Apps like these might help a tad in narrowing down the gazillion choices out there.

Thanks for sharing.


Carolyn Nicander Mohr April 21, 2012 at 9:54 am

Hey Missy, I agree, I have a hard time too. I get overwhelmed with all of the choices for gifts for people but Karma has a lot of great choices that inspire me. Come December, Karma may just be my one-stop shopping for gifts!
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Sonia April 21, 2012 at 1:07 am

I have never heard of this, but then I don’t own an apple phone either (did a while back). For me I am stuck with a Black Berry that I am very disappointed with and will have to deal with it till my contract is up. But this app is way cool and I could see me either using it or at least curious enough to check it out. Thanks for introducing this one to me!
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr April 21, 2012 at 9:56 am

Hi Sonia, Yes, for those who don’t have an iPhone or an Android phone, you will have to wait until Karma expands to other platforms. Lee wasn’t at liberty to share Karma’s expansion plans, but he said it was a priority. Stay tuned to The Wonder of Tech to find out when you can get Karma!
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April 23, 2012 at 6:09 am

Hi Carolyn, this sounds pretty neat. I see from some of the other comments here that they plan to expand Karma to other platforms. That will be greats since I don’t have a smart phone. I hope my friends are using this one :)
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April Marie Tucker April 23, 2012 at 9:45 pm

I completely agree with Ileane.. So cool!! I have a smart phone and so does everyone I know so I will definitely be checking out Karma. In fact it’s my friends Birthday tomorrow so I will be there after I finish this comment. Thanks Carolyn for sharing :)

Carolyn Nicander Mohr April 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Hi April, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech. Great idea to use Karma for your friend’s birthday present! Karma is great for last minute gifts because your friend gets the thrill of receiving the notice of the gift on her birthday and then the second thrill when your gift arrives.

While you need a smartphone to send a gift, your friend does not need a smartphone to receive a gift. You can send a Karma gift by using her email address or Facebook account instead of using a text message.

I hope your friend enjoys her gift!

April 24, 2012 at 11:46 am

My goodness – I guess it really is time for me to get a phone that does more than just take and receive calls !! The mobile technology is so over my head at the moment and I know that as a marketer I need to wise up a little on the mobile side.

Sounds like a great app -is it available in the UK? I could tell my friends about it, but I am unlikely to be using it for a few months…….;-)


Carolyn Nicander Mohr April 24, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Hi Nicky, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! Yes, I imagine nearly everyone will have a smartphone within the next decade. They’re so useful and becoming even more so with apps like Karma.

Unfortunately, Karma is US only for now but in the future it plans to expand beyond our borders here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Jens P. Berget
April 24, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Karma sounds like a fantastic service. Too bad it’s only available in the US. On the other hand, I have a few friends in the US ;-)
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Jamie April 27, 2012 at 2:48 pm

That is one of those apps I wish I had thought of. What a fantastic idea….especially the feature that allows you to send even when you don’t know someone’s physical address. This happens to me a lot! I’ll be checking this out.

Aanchal Sharma April 28, 2012 at 3:25 am

Amazing, we save our time for wandering here and there to select a perfect gifts for any other occasion…..

Ponvendhan April 28, 2012 at 8:33 am

Interesting app, never heard about it before.

Carolyn Nicander Mohr April 28, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Hi Ponvenhan, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! Yes, Karma is a fantastic app. I’ve used it to send and receive gifts and, let me tell you, it’s a crowd-pleaser!

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