The free engraving that Apple and some other gadget manufacturers offer seems like a great way to personalize a gift for somebody you care about. (Well, you care about them enough to buy them an iPod, don't you?) But you might want to think twice before emblazing your MP3 player with "To my Brussel Sprout. From Cupcake." The reason so many companies are giving you something for (what seems like) nothing? They're saving themselves millions of dollars because you can't ever return or exchange it...
Returns of perfectly good, non-defective merchandise account for 95% of returns and "free engraving" is a cheap, easy way to ensure that that item won't be coming back. Back in May of this year, Sony told the Wall Street Journal that free engraving had recently saved them a million dollars.
The engraving is great if you're buying it for yourself or if you know that your giftee really wants the iPod. But also be aware that it really cuts into the possibility of resale, too. When you're strapped for cash and that engraved iPhone is looking more and more like a stack of $20 bills, or even just when you're upgrading to a newer gizmo and want to sell the old one to a friend, the engraving will certainly downsize your purchasing audience.
[ Image from decaf @ Flickr ]