Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year - for porch parcel snatchers

Yes, it's that time of year again -the silly season is well and truly upon us. One sure sign we are in the 'silly season', other than seeing Christmas decorations everywhere, and drunken people wandering the streets after work Christmas parties, is the 'increase in stories in mainstream press about parcels stolen from front porches'.

Perhaps you've seen a story recently on your local TV station? Here are some examples from all corners of the globe;
Chicago USA - "Five Arrested for Stealing Holiday Packages from front porches" CBS 2nd Dec 2014
Cleveland USA - "Cleveland Police arrest man in connection with a string of stolen packages off West Side porches", CBS News 5 Nov 13, 2014
Australia "Thieves Parcel Pick-Up - Christmas Presents stolen from front porch" Central Western Daily
Northampton UK "Parcel stolen from unlocked porch of Northampton House" Northampton News Dec 1 2014.
New Jersey USA - "Serial package thief caught stealing parcels from Bayonne Porches again" The Jersey Journal, Nov 24, 2014

I think you get the idea by now. The mainstream media love these stories this time of year because of course everyone can relate to them. That is people generally have houses. Quite often in this day and age people shop online too. And as its Christmas time we can all relate to presents/gift giving. The stories above often start with lines like this "A warning tonight for online holiday shoppers...." or "How the Grinch stole Christmas".

Other than achieving their objective in making us all fearful, some media actually offer suggestions on how to avoid being caught up in parcel porch theft. This Police blotter from offers the following suggestions;

Another criminal activity that increases during the holiday season is the theft of recently delivered packages from residential properties. Door-step deliveries are also easy marks for thieves. Federal Express (FedEx) and the United Parcel Service (UPS) recommend these measures to safeguard shipments: Select the “ship to store” option. where packages will be sent to a nearby FedEx or UPS retail store for pickup. Have the package(s) sent to your work address or to the residence of a relative or trusted friend that you know will be at home to accept delivery. Visit the shipper's website (; and request evening delivery, date-certain delivery or make an appointment for a specific delivery time. Also, strongly consider the “signature required” option as the package(s) will not be left unless there is someone there to sign for them.

So lets just check this - the police are suggesting recommendations from UPS and FedEX to "have your packages delivered to a UPS and FedEx store". 

Wait, what? Hang on a second - doesn't that just defeat the purpose of "home deliveries". Having to go to a store to pick them up rather than having them delivered to your home?

So why on earth would FedEx and UPS suggest this? - why can't a parcel be securely delivered to our home? We can make spaceships land on top of comets, but we can't make it possible to have a package securely delivered to our home?

I tried to find the answers to these questions from FedEx and UPS so I wrote to them and asked if they endorsed any parcel delivery boxes for the home front yard. I sent them a few links to some examples such as this Australia one called Packman and this British one called BrizeBox and another British one called Locktin which has a digital keys lock . I asked FedEx and UPS what happens if someone is not home to receive the parcel, and if their parcel delivery guys would take a code written on a parcel label to open a box like the Locktin and place the parcel inside the box and then lock the door afterwards.

I never heard back from UPS, but here is the email response I got from FedEx below;

Ezza from FedEx obviously did not understand my question as she sent me a link to cardboard boxes I could buy online from FedEx to put my stuff into. I was actually asking about large metal parcel delivery boxes that are installed in people's front yards to accept deliveries - perhaps you could call them oversize letterboxes, or oversize mailboxes - see below for an example.

Unsatisfied with my response, I tried writing again to FedEx. This time I spelled out "do you recommend large metal boxes like big letterboxes that go in people's yards to accept parcels at their home". Here is their second response below;

So I learned on this second email that FedEx has a policy to "attempt delivery 3 times, then returning the parcel to their store for 5 days, then they pay for the parcel to delivered back to the sender".

Wow! that sounds like a policy that is insanely wasteful - not only wasteful on FedEx's money to try and deliver your package, but wasteful on their resources, and wasteful sending people out on the streets to attempt delivery of your package up to 3 times.

Of course FedEx, UPS, Amazon and national Post Office companies in countries around the world know that this policy is costing them money. And that is why they are spending tens of millions of dollars trying to solve the problem.

One of the ways they are trying to solve the problem is by building lockers for parcel deliveries and plonking them in shopping centres. The post companies are also spending alot of money on drone delivery research too, without actually offering a solution to receive your package e.g see here and here.

You can see Amazon's Locker Delivery solution here (and a cutesy video too). Interestingly, these lockers are controlled by Digital Keys. That is you receive a text message and email with a unique pick up code and enter it into a keypad, and then you can open your door. So the digital keys they use in these lockers are usually linked to a PC, and wi-fi and other electronics in the base of the locker banks.

So yes, these lockers cost money and are not cheap. At the moment the postal companies are paying up to $1000 a locker to security companies to build these locker banks. For example see a tender document here from the Norway Post Office company wanting to pay 2.69 million euros for some parcel delivery lockers. Also see this example of an Australian company recently announcing a 7 figure order for 30 parcel locker banks of between 80-120 lockers for Singapore Post.

Then there are the costs and negotiations to actually put the lockers into shopping centres or service stations and to pay rent for them.

So lets just backtrack for a moment, you can see Post companies are spending tens of millions of dollars a year trying to solve the problem, but the question has to be asked, "could the Postal companies actually solve the problem by making money and not spending money" (hey yeah there's a concept).

Here is an idea - the Post companies could be endorsing a metal box solution described above that enables you to receive a package whilst you are at home(and take a referral commission). The postal companies could even make their own parcel box, or some other solution themselves and sell it to you.

They could be selling billions of these products across the globe. There is only about one and half billion homes on the planet with the same problem. How much would you pay for a solution to home deliveries if FedEx, Amazon or UPS was selling a parcel box or some other secure home delivery solution?

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