eBay, Facebook Launch Group Gift-Buying Tool

eBay yesterday launched a new application, eBay Group Gifts, to help people chip in on those expensive wedding presents.

The application, found at GroupGifts.ebay.com, makes it easy for groups of friends or family to gather online, choose a gift from eBay’s selection of “Buy It Now” merchandise, and divide up the cost as they see fit. After choosing a gift and inviting friends to join you in the endeavor, participants pledge the agreed-upon amount, and won’t be charged until the price is covered and the item purchased.

In a statement, the company described the application as “ideal for graduation presents, holiday presents, registries and other opportunities for distributed groups of givers to share costs for thoughtful gifts.”

Group Gifts also introduces a social aspect to gift buying through its collaboration with Facebook. EBay users can link with their Facebook account to gather friends for a group gift, and eBay can even pull profile information from the intended recipient to help you choose the gift itself. If, for instance, your friend identifies Jurassic Park as his favorite movie on his profile, that information will appear on eBay, allowing you to quickly search for all merchandise on eBay related to the movie.

While the latter aspect of the application may be expected to raise the usual privacy objections related to Facebook’s ever-expanding reach, it’s worth noting that eBay will only display profile information that is already available to the recipient’s Facebook friends. Still, the truly Facebook-phobic won’t have to connect to the social network to gather their group – it’s possible to just invite participants via email. And while the person who organizes the group must use longtime eBay partner PayPal, the other participants can simply pay by credit card, as they would for any other.

The new feature is likely to be welcomed by Christmas shoppers seeking to divide up the costs of big family gifts as the holiday season approaches. And no matter what the occasion, it should help eliminate those freeloading friends who commit to chipping in to get their names on the card, but then never follow up with actual money.

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