Porch Pirates Are The Modern Day Grinch
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With the rise of e-commerce, gone are the days of sneaking down the chimney, Dr. Seuss-style. Now ruining Christmas is as easy as picking up a parcel on a porch. Thirty-one percent of Americans have personally experienced package theft, signaling a growing problem in communities already drowning in deliveries.
The United States Postal Service will deliver 17.9 billion cards, letters and packages between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. UPS plans to deliver more than 750 million packages this holiday season, up from 500 million five years ago. In the last five years, deliveries are up nearly 30% across every major carrier. Between Nov. 24 and Jan. 3, shipping accounts for the largest hiring bubble in any professional industry. Most delivery services are expecting to handle a record number of parcels this year.
“One of the outcomes is you’ve got one of the easiest ways to steal something ever,” Nextdoor CEO Nirav Tolia told the New York Times.
Nextdoor, a neighborhood-based social network, reports a 500% increase over the holiday season in posts on its social network about missing packages. Shorr's 2017 package theft report found that 31% of Americans have personally experienced package theft. Around the holiday season, that can be devastating.
Part of the problem stems from home delivery. About 92% of online shoppers prefer to have their packages delivered to their homes, often with little more deterrent than hiding the package under a doormat. For package pirates trailing the delivery trucks, they are easy pickings.
Technology is raising awareness of the problem and helping resolve it.
Home surveillance cameras like Google's Nest and Ring have made it easier to catch thieves in the act. Residents can speak through the device to would-be thieves even if they are not home. But with a mask and quick feet, the security measures can be overcome. That is where delivery lockers come in.
Already this year, Luxer One has reported an 83% increase in package delivery volume to its lockers during the week after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, compared with the week prior. The company works with more than 1,200 apartment communities across the U.S. Luxer One said it is only beginning to tap into a new model in U.S. residential communities, and has plans to triple its unit count in 2018.
“It’s a matter of security and management for all these communities. Lockers keep the goods safe and provide peace of mind,” Luxer One Director of Marketing Melody Akhtari said.
Meanwhile, Amazon is reportedly planning to locate its locker systems in more residential communities. Amazon signed contracts in October with building owners and managers to install lockers in more than 850,000 apartments across the U.S. The e-commerce giant has already rolled out its lockers at Whole Foods and other brick-and-mortar locations.
With the flood of boxes, many multifamily communities have stopped accepting packages to the front office altogether, requiring carriers to deliver to each resident's door. Lockers are especially useful in those communities.
"In communities where they don't accept packages at the office, it's easier to be a little Grinch-y," Colliers Senior Multifamily Senior Vice President Matt Guse said.
Back when Guse was developing multifamily communities, he saw the locker trend in its early stages. He was one of the first developers to see their value as an amenity. He added two spots for lockers in the multifamily community he was developing, though he only bought one locker.
Walmart is getting in on the locker game, too. The retail giant is rolling out high-tech automated pickup towers in 500 stores. Over 900 Walmart locations offer curbside pickup, with more to follow in 2018.
In a separate push, FedEx is encouraging its customers to have packages delivered to Walgreens or other "hold" locations, including Kroger and Albertsons, as part of its delivery strategy. UPS launched a similar initiative in 2014, creating an Access Point network of thousands of pickup locations inside grocery stores, dry cleaners and other retailers.
The programs help the carrier as much as the customer. Drivers can deliver more than one package to the hold locations instead of going door-to-door, saving time and money, crucial in the rapidly growing delivery industry.
Amazon, which relies on home delivery more than any other retailer, said the vast majority of packages made it to customers without being stolen this year, but did not release specific numbers.
To beat the pirates, this year Amazon began rolling out its Amazon Key Service, which allows couriers to enter homes to drop off packages while under the watchful eye of an internet-connected door lock and camera.
If a locker or expensive camera system is not in the cards, consumers can take a few simple precautions to thwart thieves.
Roughly 35% of Americans say they have packages sent to an address other than their home to prevent theft, according to Shorr's survey. Fifty-three percent of respondents stated they have changed their plans to make sure they were home for a package delivery. Consumers are also picking up their packages quicker. Since Thanksgiving weekend, consumers' speed of pickup have increased 43% for Luxer One's units.
Law enforcement officials recommend requesting a tracking number to monitor the progress of shipments, especially on the big ticket items, such as electronics. For those who will not be home during a delivery date or time, packages can be delivered to a neighbor's house or to a workplace, if it is allowed.
Getting a grip on package theft and delivery complications is not going to get any easier.
"One of the biggest challenges across the industry is scale, especially during the holiday season," Akhtari said. With the ease of online delivery getting easier every year, more people will order online. Soon, one locker might not be enough.
"That's why we built space for two," Guse said.
During the holidays, it never hurts to have a backup plan.