Opinion: Amazon’s Delivery Problem
While at work I receive an alert on my phone that my package was delivered by Amazon–meaning that they craftily hid it behind my planter or not so craftily slipped a bulbous package under my door mat, or even better, just left it at the door. “Hang on Jillian Michael work out DVD packed with Math text book for next term…I’ll be home at 6!” But I made my peace with the loss. Some package thief would be making progress towards their best body and learning math while I am on the phone with customer service. When I get home, there is no sign of the package. I log in to Amazon, go to “Your Orders” and look for my longed for book order, click order details, and see “Delivered.” Lies! I look next to the order for an easy rebuttal button, “Stolen!” But there is no such button. The path to replacement is circuitous. On the main page I click “Help” at the top tab, select Returns and Refunds, and it takes me to my orders. While I can return a package here, I cannot report that it was never delivered. I go back to the Help screen and type, “Stolen Package” into the Find more solutions search bar.
Click help → find more solutions→ stolen packages
This takes me to an article titled, “Find a Missing Package That Shows As Delivered.” Much like a missing person, you cannot report a missing package for 36 hours. Maybe it’s out with its friends?
I scroll further – I want justice!
I select Contact Us on the “Quick Solutions” menu. It takes me to my orders page, and I select the absconded order. Scrolling down there is a “Tell us more about your issue” (My issue?)
Once I drill down to tracking a package that shows delivered but was not received, I am able to call Amazon. The conversation goes a little like this:
“That’s unfortunate – the package shows delivered”
“I live in the city -it was left on my door step. Of course it is missing.”
Eventually, they agree to either refund or replace the package. Suddenly, my prime free 2 day shipping becomes 6 day shipping – 2 day shipping + 36 hour waiting period + 2 additional days for replacement. (I’ve never had a double stolen package. I wonder how many times they will replace packages that are repeat stolen?)
Clicking through other pending orders, I select “provide deliver instructions.” I can either leave an access code, instruct them to leave it with a neighbor, or select a “Safe Place” for leaving it. There is no, “come back when I’m home.” My only option would be Amazon locker, but there are no Amazon lockers near my house.
I’d like to contact Amazon, remind them that I’m not just any Amazon customer – I’m PRIME! Will they please stop leaving packages on my door step? I contact Amazon through chat. After confusing the first level support robot (who definitely fails the Tourin test) I got a higher quality robot, Ysabelle. Ysabelle directed me to contact Amazon Logistics (877-252-2701).
She pulls up my account and makes a note that for future deliveries, that packages should not be left on the step. This will be visible to all future Amazon logistics orders. We’ll see how well that goes.
According to Amazon’s 2015 annual revenue statement, in 2015, Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) shipped over one billion units on behalf of sellers. In 2016, FBA rose 70%. Given that estimates put up to 40 percent of the nearly 6 billion packages delivered each year miss their first delivery window, three quarters of a billion packages by Amazon risk theft each year, particularly at houses on busy streets with no porches. This is not only a problem for Amazon, as many sellers working with Amazon have come to see the cost of doing business with Amazon include refunding stolen items.
While the hydra of Amazon has successfully spread its tentacles into servers, grocery stores, and fast logistics, it has yet to match the reliability of brick and mortar shipping companies in avoiding theft as a major part of doing business. Not considering the 2016 net loss of $7.2 billion for complimentary 2 day shipping, the cost of leaving packages on the front door is left at the door of the seller. Their solutions have ranged from spotty locker delivery to Amazon Key – the newest creepy internet company option, allowing Amazon couriers access to your home at will to deliver your packages. (See The Onion: Popular New Amazon Service Just Comes To Your House And Kills You).
Amongst concerns about personal security and privacy (will they come in when I’m home? They don’t knock half the time as it is), this solution also lacks footing for renters, who may not be able to install the smart lock door entry system, or condo owners who share a common door with neighbors. Moreover, it’s expensive – with smart lock costs of $299 on top of Prime Membership, considering it would only be a solution (if that) for a single carrier. You would still need to manage FedEx, USPS, UPS, and DHL separately.
From a liability standpoint, I wonder who will bare the cost of claims made against couriers who overstep the bounds of delivery and damage or steal items from the home (or do you wave the right to make claims for this by signing up?). Even in a sharing economy where airbnb and uber challenge us to new levels of community trust, these services still give participants the right to select who gets limited access to their home or car based on a system of reviews. Giving unlimited access to your house to an unknown group of couriers isn’t trust, it’s a poor solution putting all the onus and risk on the customer to a problem Amazon hasn’t been able to solve.
As an Airbnb host myself, I understand that trust is good for the soul, but I still collect a deposit, have the option of damage claims, the ability to review, and the ability to select who stays at my house based on past reviews or their request to have one last hurrah before the end of college.
But what’s an online shopper to do?
Many of my neighbors have a dry cleaner or corner store that they instruct delivery people to send a package to. In the spirit of that, I signed up for MyPackagePost.com. It’s a community of local businesses that receive packages for you while you are away from home. You subscribe to a business near your house, pay a small monthly fee, and address your packages to the store. You receive a notification from the store when the packages arrive, and you pick them up when convenience strikes. I’ve never had a package stolen since. In addition to the obvious benefits – the first month of the service is free, and I can cancel any time.
This not only solves for me package theft problems, it solves the problems of ordering something that might be delivered when it is raining or extremely hot or extremely cold outside and sitting on my doorstep all day (or all week if it happens to come when I am on vacation).
And it’s only $12.99 for 10 packages per month. An additional cost of $1.299 per package is small compared with alternative options such as local delivery services.