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Secrets stay secret

No more holiday gifting dread: Online registry CheckedTwice lets families share holiday wish lists

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Version 1.0 of CheckedTwice features a waterfall of images, like Pinterest, that link to family members' wishlist items.  Courtesy of CheckedTwice
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Rebecca Hyatt, left, and Andrew Swick, right, are the brother-sister duo behind the site, which improved their family gift exchanges for years before its public release.  Courtesy of Checked Twice
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Rebecca Hyatt_Andrew Swick_Checked Twice

Holiday gift-giving, though genuine and heartfelt at its core, all too often turns into disaster — or a pile of items to re-gift. Your colorblind father buys you a scarf in an awful hue. You and your sister purchase Mom the same pair of earrings. A gift exchange with grandma means the umpteenth bottle of ck one, your preferred scent in eighth grade. 

Andrew Swick and Rebecca Hyatt, a brother-sister pair from the Houston area, had their fill of duplicate gifts during the 2002 holiday season, an experience that led them to create an online registry, CheckedTwice.com, where families can share wish lists. 

"My sister hates this origin story," laughed Swick as he recounted the Christmas morning that Hyatt unwrapped not one, not two, but three volumes of a Robert Frost anthology she had put on her holiday list. 

 Swick insisted that the wishlist format doesn't spoil the fun: Recipients don't know what they're going to get from whom and givers have the option of posting private gifts, so, as he puts it, secrets stay secret.

 Not content to let this problem repeat itself, Hyatt — a self-professed "geek" who worked in Silicon Valley before moving back to The Woodlands with her small children — coded a registry, which was used exclusively by the Swick family between 2003 and 2008. 

"When a new child was born, we would just add a new row to the database," said Swick, who admitted that his family bragged about their ability to shop for everyone on their Christmas list during a brief lunch break. 

Due to overwhelming demand, Swick and Hyatt launched a private alpha version for friends during the 2009 holiday season. In 2010, a beta version was released. This September, CheckedTwice unveiled version 1.0 — totally redesigned from top to bottom, with an interface that is functional, easy to use and image-oriented (think Pinterest). 

"CheckedTwice really stands apart during the holiday season," Swick explained. "We handle the biggest gift-giving occasion of the year. It's easy just to let it ride after that, so the Christmas list becomes a birthday list, and so on." 

Swick insisted that the wishlist format doesn't spoil the fun: Recipients don't know what they're going to get from whom and givers have the option of posting private gifts, so, as he puts it, secrets stay secret. Users can register for "a red scarf" or to a specific item, like "this red scarf," and once it has been purchased, everyone knows — except for the receiver. 

Plus, if a user's friend group or in-laws celebrate more modestly than his or her immediate, overindulgent family, overlapping wishlists can play to expectations while communicating to effectively reduce repeat gifts. The site links with Amazon, but is otherwise ad-free to keep the experience pure for users. 

CheckedTwice garnered attention from publications as varied as Apartment Therapy to the New York Times last holiday season for alleviating the stress of gift giving — and as Black Friday's shadow looms today, we're thinking that it's worth a try. 

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