The Problem is Not With the Graduates (Beware of the Sirens)

Parcel lockers and other things

Twelve years in the boondocks of Pennsylvania, and I've never had an Amazon.com package stolen before. The interesting thing is, Amazon.com shows it as delivered to the ParcelPending lockers in my building (in Dallas where I live now). This is supposed to be a more secure way to receive packages. When the Amazon delivery person puts a package in a locker for you, you get an email with a 6-digit code that will allow you to unlock the box. Unfortunately, the system is only as good as its weakest link, which is in this case that the Amazon delivery person has to key in the apartment number. And he's made mistakes before (not sure if it was the same guy), but the resident whose apartment number got mistakenly typed in by the delivery guy gave the concierge my package the next morning and the concierge sent me a message. And once I got packages for another apartment, and I gave them to the concierge right away. Mind you, we've only had ParcelPending for a few months.

This time around, my Amazon.com orders page shows that my package was delivered on Friday, and it's Tuesday evening and I still don't have it. So I think by that point the probability is getting high that my package was stolen. (I posted a message on the building's online bulletin board that got sent to all residents, so by now the only other option would be that the resident would got my package is away far from his email on, say, a cruise in the Caribbean, in April. Not impossible, but not terribly likely either.)  

Now of course I can't complain to Amazon, because Amazon considers the package delivered, although its delivery guy made the mistake of typing the wrong apartment number. (Go ahead and try to prove that, though. And of course no one cares about getting the logs, if they exist somewhere in the ParcelPending system, showing which residents received Amazon packages on Friday. The only thing I can prove is that Amazon shows my package delivered to a locker while the ParcelPending website shows I haven't received a package through their system in weeks.) ParcelPending has such bad Google reviews I'm not sure I even want to waste time calling them. 

And a resident somewhere in the building has my package, and this is not the sort of building where you'd think residents want to make extra money by selling books they stole from other residents. Dallas has a lot of good sides but the young professionals crowd in my area is definitely not the reading type. More the blowouts and manicures and all the fashionable yoga outfits kind of crowd. (What can I say, I wanted to live close to work and it's a very walkable neighborhood close to the arts district.) In the package I had two paperback books by the Argentine novelist Julio Cortazar, one by Octavio Paz and one by Jorge Luis Borges. I don't expect whoever stole my books to easily find a buyer on Amazon Marketplace for all four, although perhaps they'll go and resell them to local chain Half-Price Books. Or, more likely, they put it in the dumpster, just for the fun of it. They'd be the type.

I'm not sure what makes people think it's okay to steal other people's packages, although I suppose some of the younger residents have been so spoiled by their parents (you just have to look at their cars in the parking lot - no way they could afford those cars by themselves) that they think everything belongs to them, if they can just get their hands on it. I just don't understand the point of it. Especially when they might be the one missing their package next time.

I'm very sad to have that theft happen - I was really looking forward to reading those books - but more broadly for those of you with only a limited interest in hearing me whine about my stolen package, I think the whole model of Amazon Locker or ParcelPending is going to have to be seriously revised if it's ever going to take off. Because the system is only as strong as its weakest link and in this case the weakest link is the Amazon delivery guy. And people might give their neighbors their packages if Amazon leaves it in front of the wrong door, but people who find a package that is not for them in a locker won't go out of their way to give it back. At least in my case we're all in the same building, so it's not difficult (for a normal person). The only thing that will make the parcel lockers work is if they have a scanner so that the system can recognize the proper address without human interaction. I also think the drones idea is ridiculous, because there will be people who will make it their pastime to get those drones and steal the packages. The presence of a delivery person helps protect against the temptation of theft. But of course in my case, the delivery person was part of the problem.


And I also think Amazon should have a feature to rate deliveries, especially now that it has its own delivery services in some cities, so that there would be a way for it to know if a delivery man keeps delivering packages to wrong addresses, etc. But of course Amazon doesn't care, because it thinks the last mile is to deliver to the parcel locker. It's time to find for me to buy from Barnes & Noble again.

The comments to this entry are closed.