Are photos of packages on doorsteps helpful?

Source: Twitter/@davidbutlermd
Mar 07, 2018

Amazon’s drivers are increasingly taking pictures of where they put the packages they deliver and even including the images in delivery notifications sent to customers.

The snapshots help in three ways:

  • Theft reduction: Drivers can let the recipient know where to find packages that they hide behind shrubs or flower pots to make a package less visible to thieves;
  • Further proof of arrival/condition for consumers: While notifications are one step, an image provides further proof to consumers of when the package arrives and in what condition. The recipient can even show another household member an image of the package in case they grabbed it by mistake;
  • Internal lost-package resolution: With the images, drivers can prove they dropped off the package at the correct address in good condition. On its website, Amazon Logistics said it “may look at delivery photos to troubleshoot what happened to a package.”

According to a report from USA Today, Amazon’s Photo on Delivery program has existed for at least six months, but the delivery device and app was recently updated so all Amazon Logistics drivers can take a picture. The program is currently available in select markets, including Oregon, Las Vegas, Indianapolis, Seattle, San Francisco, and the Northern Virginia metro areas.

Writing for USA Today, Elizabeth Weise said receiving images of your front porch on your smartphone can be “kind of creepy, especially if customers don’t realize delivery drivers have been taking these photos.” Previously, the customer could only find the photo by searching on their Amazon account and order history.

The images are uploaded directly to the cloud and don’t stay on the driver’s phone. Customers can opt out of the service.

Photo on Delivery comes as “porch piracy,” or theft of packages from front stoops, is on the rise. Some solutions to reduce package thefts include smart locks that enable delivery personal to leave packages inside homes, AI-supported video cameras that enable home owners to view suspicious activity outside their home through an app, and smart mailboxes that act as storage units that sit outside of homes.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Where do you see the benefits from Amazon’s Photo on Delivery program? Would it make sense for other major carriers as well? Do you see better solutions for reducing “porch piracy”?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Amazon is smart to focus on protecting their goodwill with customers."
"For those who believe Photo on Delivery has a CYA motivation, I say that’s OK."
"What all these possible solutions have in common is that the onus is on the package recipient to create the process to ensure security."

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18 Comments on "Are photos of packages on doorsteps helpful?"

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Ben Ball

These photos will certainly benefit Amazon by giving them physical proof of delivery when packages go missing. Amazon is smart to focus on protecting their goodwill with customers. This move is very much in line with Amazon’s recent crackdown on customer service performance with third-party vendors in their marketplace. They know the brand is “Amazon” regardless of who actually sells or ships the product; regardless of whether the package is stolen or damaged by vandals. The most valuable asset in Amazon’s business system right now is their reputation with shoppers as the most reliable and convenient way to shop. They must protect that at all costs.

Bob Amster

This offering reminds me of kaizen. Although absolutely not necessary, it adds a little something to the total experience and makes it better.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

Taking photos of deliveries is mostly a CYA (cover your assets) move. Taking a photo takes too long and does not prevent porch pirates from stealing the package. There are many reasons that Amazon purchased Ring. Ring will enable video recording of delivery without the delivery person having to stop and take a photo. Ring currently offers a function that allows the customer to speak live to the delivery person. In the not-too-distant future, Ring will become Amazon’s secure portal to enable deliveries to a locker, or even open the door to a secure pantry.

Sky Rota
4 years 2 months ago

Yes absolutely. All delivery people should wear a camera or have ability to take a picture of the package on your step, etc. It is so frustrating to get an alert saying your package was delivered only to get home and it’s not there. You call and they say they dropped it off at “your” front door. NO! It wasn’t my front door. And like my mom says, neighbors today don’t walk over with your package, they just keep it! So it’s not just about porch theft, it’s about neighbors being too busy to bring you your package. A camera will hold delivery people accountable for paying attention to exactly what address they actually dropped the package off at. I believe that is more of a problem in some areas than theft!

Gene Detroyer

Until the other technologies are developed and adoption of these technologies takes hold, this is a simple and brilliant step in taking on the doorstep theft problem.

Art Suriano

It starts out as a great idea and I can see many customers liking the service. But I have security concerns because it’s too easy today to hack into people’s phones. If this becomes popular, I can see hackers looking for ways to get personal information either to steal the packages or just to share photos of people’s homes with others. I think the best idea for those who have many packages delivered is to purchase a locking delivery box kept outside of the house. It’s old-fashioned, but it works. This way the package ordinarily left on the doorstep for everyone to see is protected if there is bad weather and it takes the pressure off the recipient if they are not able to get home quickly to bring the package inside.

Chris Buecker

The package might have to stay for hours at the customer´s requested delivery point. A picture can prove where the package has been put or that it has been laid there in good condition. This can be very helpful and become standard. In the future, Amazon will go even further. With the just recently announced acquisition of Ring, the global home security company that incorporates outdoor motion-based cameras and doorbells, consumers in theory can even open their door remotely to let the carrier put the package in the corridor even though nobody will be at home. It would be secured by cameras. The question is, how many consumers will be willing to open their doors to strangers? In times where convenience is king, consumers open up for all kind of solutions.

Tom Dougherty

It’s all about surety. And I don’t mean preventing thefts. It gives the Amazon users the assurance that the package was, in fact, delivered to the right address.

As usual for Amazon — smart. They look at service from the perspective of the enduser and not from their own process.

Lee Kent

I agree, however, there is one more nit to add. Maybe this doesn’t happen where you live, but it happens all the time to me. A package is suppose to arrive, the status says it is on the truck, then I get a status that there was no place to deliver and no one home. I will then have to call or come by to pick up. The problem is, I work at home and every time this has happened, I was home all day. They NEVER tried to deliver. We are having great problems with our mail these days, some days no mail at all and this would be a great way to put a stop to this foolishness. IMHO and for my 2 cents.

Cathy Hotka

The U.S. Postal Service’s Informed Delivery service sends a daily email to customers, showing them photographs of that day’s incoming mail. Amazon’s photo service will be a welcome development for customers who aren’t always at home and who are creeped out by the possibility of delivery drivers entering the house.

Nikki Baird
I see the benefit in terms of being able to hide packages more thoroughly from porch pirates, but it strikes me as being more CYA for Amazon and its delivery drivers than something that provides good will for consumers. If Amazon has photo proof of delivery, and the customer comes home and it’s not there, then who is left holding the bag? Amazon says they can prove it made it. So … the customer then is left to report a theft to police? And they’re out of luck for the actual item they ordered? And if Amazon already so tightly schedules package deliveries with their shift workers, then are they going to build more time in to take these pictures? Because lately, when one of Amazon’s shifts is delivering boxes to my house, I have literally seen them thrown from the car to my door in a drive-by in some kind of effort to save time. That’s not a lot of customer good will going on there, plus I’m starting to feel like I’m participating… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson

Until delivery drivers start using Photoshop to circumvent this idea (I’m kidding … hopefully), I think it’s great. This is just one more way to help ensure customer satisfaction and secure shopping experiences.

James Tenser

This is good business for Amazon, but I doubt visual proof of delivery will do much to deter theft. Chris and Nikki have it right, doorstep delivery photos are first and foremost a derrière-cover.

That said, there are few practical alternatives. I suppose homeowners can install through-the-wall delivery “airlocks” that would permit packages to be left securely. Homeowners can install video surveillance of their own as a deterrent and warn thieves that they are on Candid Camera while packages sit on the stoop. Recipients could provide a limited-use code that enables a delivery person to leave a package inside the front door (bad if you have pets). Recipients could commit to being present and opening the door to delivery people.

What all these possible solutions have in common is that the onus is on the package recipient to create the process to ensure security. Maybe Amazon has concluded this too. The photos are a first step toward transferring the responsibility.

Joan Treistman

For those who believe Photo on Delivery has a CYA motivation, I say that’s OK. I think it makes sense for Amazon to have a system for customers and also for their employees to document what they’ve done. It’s not exactly a nanny cam, but it does offer the opportunity for the drivers to back up their claim of delivery.

As for theft prevention, thieves won’t care about the photo, but they might care if they think they’re in the photo. Maybe a next step is some digital camera that snaps a picture (or video) of a delivery and also has some gizmo that snaps a picture or video if that same package is picked up.

Craig Sundstrom

Although some of the explanations seem contrived. In case another household member grabs something by mistake … really? I see this mostly as a CYA move by Amazon. But there’s nothing wrong with that: absentee drop off is the weak link in mail order delivery and anything (reasonable) that reduces fraud or loss should be welcomed.

Doug Garnett

Sounds like a smart program built by Amazon — but introduced without respect for the sensitivities of consumers. That’s not really a surprise. Tech based companies today are doing worse jobs thinking about what offends people.

Had Amazon OFFERED the opportunity to receive a photo as a service, satisfaction would be high. But it’s no surprise some consumers are concerned by having someone on their property taking unauthorized photos of their home (oh, and your package).

For all the tech businesses talk about “understand the consumer,” so few really do. Especially since this is a fairly obvious reality. Doesn’t anyone at Amazon know how to suspend judgement and think like a consumer?

Kai Clarke

This is a great way to communicate how a package is delivered, when, the conditions, and where it was delivered. This may indirectly reduce false claims of theft, and increase customer service, since it provides visual feedback to the customer prior to their contacting Amazon (and complaining). Improving this “last mile” helps increase customer satisfaction and provide for an enhanced customer experience for Amazon.

Michael Spencer

Of course, anything that facilitates trust and the last-mile of delivery is helpful to the customer. When Amazon acquired Ring, it’s putting a stamp on the security aspect of the smart home. As voice-activated E-commerce becomes more common, this means that everything is verifiable and will be become automated.

Waymo and Uber both have self-driving trucks, how long until Amazon gets skin in the game to compete with UPS and FedEx with logistics to close the loop?

We live in an era of computer vision, a picture is worth well, that extra mile of convenience.

"Amazon is smart to focus on protecting their goodwill with customers."
"For those who believe Photo on Delivery has a CYA motivation, I say that’s OK."
"What all these possible solutions have in common is that the onus is on the package recipient to create the process to ensure security."

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