Is porch piracy a retailer responsibility?

Discussion
Photo: RetailWire
Dec 20, 2022

Since November 23, I have been receiving weekly email warnings about package theft at my apartment building in New York City. The notes read, “The holidays are approaching and package thieves will be out in even fuller force than usual.”

The notes called out related infractions, such as buzzing people into the building without asking who is ringing the bell and holding the door for strangers. Residents have been urged to collect packages “immediately” after delivery or send them to their workplace or local locker facilities if unavailable. Requiring a signature is recommended. The building’s management writes, “Your packages are your responsibility to maintain and account for, not the building staff and super.”

A recent USA Today article aimed at homeowners, “11 Ways To Protect Your Packages From Porch Pirates,” suggests installing a video doorbell that can send alerts to phones when a package arrives or has been moved. Adding a separate outdoor security camera to catch a thief in the act, motion-sensor lighting and smart lockers were also recommended.

Non-tech solutions offered included putting deliveries on hold when away, asking neighbors for help and having deliveries sent to friends or workplaces.

A recent ValuePenguin survey found that 35 percent of Americans have had a package stolen. The majority of porch piracy was found to occur at single-family homes (62 percent) and apartment buildings (23 percent). Only 17 percent of package or delivery theft victims in the past year reported the theft to police. Sixty-two percent resolved their claim with the seller and 30 percent with the carrier.

UPS, FedEx and USPS enable recipients to file claims but assert that, once a package is delivered to the right address, it becomes the property and responsibility of the receiver.

Most retailers don’t have official policies on stolen, lost or damaged packages, but many appear open to offering a replacement or compensation for most losses. Amazon’s “A-to-Z Guarantee,” for instance, even helps resolve delivery issues from third-party marketplace sellers. Amazon writes on its website about the guarantee, “It covers both the timely delivery and condition of your items. If you’re not happy with either and can’t resolve the issue directly with the seller.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should retailers hold consumers more accountable for stolen packages from doorsteps or apartment lobbies? What solutions do you see to reduce porch piracy?

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Braintrust
"If disruptors are going to revolutionize the retail industry, they have an obligation to address the fulfillment dimension as well."
"The last foot, from outside the front door to inside the front door, is the responsibility of the customer. Period."
"If online retailers want to retain that business, they might want to develop imbedded chip technology track and then prosecute."

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26 Comments on "Is porch piracy a retailer responsibility?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Consumers need to take more responsibility for the goods they order online. Yes Amazon may have delivered it, but if you live in a insecure environment where theft has been a problem, how is that Amazon’s or any other retailer’s problem to fix? If you can’t live without online shopping and you can’t tolerate your packages being stolen, then do something about it yourself. Consider having your packages sent to a relative or neighbor’s home that is more secure. Consider having it sent to your office (if you have one). Organize with other tenants in your building to form a package watch program. Stealing isn’t going away and neither is online shopping.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

I think retailers or delivery services should only be held accountable if it is clear that the package never made it to the address. Once it is there, the recipient needs to be responsible. Our daughter has had packages, especially valuable ones like a computer monitor, delivered to our apartment that has a doorman if she is away instead of at her place. As my Dad used to say, use your common sense. Retailers have enough on their plate to worry about.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

In the cases where this has happened to me, the companies have been very good about tracking and/or replacing the packages. Some even take pictures of the delivery and send it to the customer. I know we have talked about delivery lockers for home use in the past, but that doesn’t have wide acceptance as of yet.

KarenBurdette
Guest

I’ve seen many retailers in recent years look to delivery lockers as a solution for porch piracy. Makes a lot of sense! There is nothing more annoying than ordering something you need, having it stolen from your front step, and having to go through the wringer to resolve the issue with a replacement or refund. I would much rather go pick up a package at a locker location, especially for gifts, than risk having the gift stolen.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Porch pirates are as relentless as Harry and Marv from Home Alone, but there’s only so much retailers can do. Requiring signatures would be a good start, but would slow deliveries to a crawl. Real-time tracking and notifications are probably today’s best defense against porch pirates. Eliminate the bad guys’ window of opportunity. The delivery folks frequently leave packages at a side door or at the mailbox at my home, which is the perfect spot for someone to steal. Maybe the delivery drivers need to bear some responsibility here, especially if the best door is mentioned in the order notes. So, delivering to the right door is key. Having one doorbell camera is smart. If we need to have one at every door and window, then Santa might as well stay home this year.

Dion Kenney
BrainTrust
1 month 16 days ago

No question, porch piracy is a problem. It’s on the news every day, particularly right now in the heart of shopping season. Realistically, retailers can’t be responsible for neighborhood crime or building design. But it is not realistic to abdicate e-commerce’s role in the phenomenon with the comment that FedEx and UPS have operated this way for years. If disruptors are going to revolutionize the retail industry, they have an obligation to address the fulfillment dimension as well.

David Spear
BrainTrust

It’s sad we’re discussing this topic. In many countries like Japan and Switzerland, a bike can be left unlocked for weeks and it won’t be stolen. Porch pirates in the U.S. are a real problem, and I believe it’s on the consumer to understand his/her surroundings so as to mitigate theft instances. Retailers can’t be expected to know every detail about a consumer’s home/apartment. If theft is a recurring issue, then consumers need to take action. Perhaps lockers are the answer or signature or specific delivery time. Regardless of solution, consumers have more intel than anyone else and should take the lead on informing retailers/parcel companies the best option for delivery.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Retailers have their work cut out for them with all the factors involved in last-mile execution. The last foot, from outside the front door to inside the front door, is the responsibility of the customer. Period.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

If a package has been delivered irresponsibly or delivery ignores the reasonable requests of the receiver then a retailer may have some liability. Otherwise the consumer needs to take responsibility, and that includes ensuring there is a safe place for delivery or that someone is there to receive the order.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Have you not noticed that Amazon doesn’t exactly stick with its delivery windows anymore? It can come a day early, in the morning instead of the afternoon, a day late — you name it. So what will happen is people will return to stores. Likely using BOPIS, whenever they get around to picking the order up. It can’t be like this.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Consumers may resent being held accountable for porch piracy, thinking it amounts to victim blaming. For the best outcomes, both the retailer and consumer can take steps to protect product orders.

The rise in porch piracy will drive demand for BOPIS, home surveillance cameras and secure parcel lockers. More shoppers will warm up to in-garage and in-home delivery. Delivery personnel can text real-time photos to prove packages arrived at their doors, alerting consumers to pick them up promptly.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

Ultimately, I believe it is the responsibility of the service that’s delivering the goods to ensure that they get into the hands of the people who are supposed to get them. But I am not going let consumers off the hook. Maybe if the delivery services had more discretion about where they leave packages that would help. If the location isn’t secure enough, bring the package back to the fulfillment center and have them pick it up there. Alternatively, allow them to accept responsibility when they place the order.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust
This is a tricky question. I never have porch pirates, for whatever reason. I have cameras anyway, so I could catch them. BUT what did happen is one of the logistics companies (I won’t name them here) literally threw a package onto my porch, breaking a sculpture that sat by my door. I called the retailer who said it was the shipper’s responsibility. I called the shipper who said it was the retailer’s responsibility. I got tired of the back and forth and bought another sculpture myself — but what a way to pass the buck! This cannot happen. So I think it’s a bigger question than theft. There are deliveries that go to the wrong location, deliveries literally left on the street (my gardener found one!) and really sloppy shippers. I would not use that shipper for outbound shipments EVER, and my opinion of the otherwise responsive retailer went down a notch or two. It’s sort of like what would happen if a retailer was using JWO and charged the customer for something she… Read more »
Peter Charness
BrainTrust

It’s hard to see how it is anyone else’s responsibility once it hits your porch. It would be nice if there were package lockers near the door, but those aren’t readily available for a fair price. One can always ask Amazon, UPS, or FedEx to deliver to a nearby store near the house (or there’s that ultimate access by going to the store like we used to). With better “you are three stops away” notifications, at least for people who are home, shoppers can grab the parcel before someone else does.

Melissa Minkow
BrainTrust

This is where extremely accurate delivery tracking is a key capability. As retailers are able to predict to the hour when a package will arrive upon buying the item, consumers will have no excuse for not getting it. Consumers will inevitably blame retailers in theft situations if the retailer doesn’t refund them, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s not retailers’ faults.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Every year about this time there seems to be more interest in this topic. For the consumer, the first place they will go is back to the retailer. While it may not be the retailer’s fault, it appears to be their responsibility. One option is to insure the package. The question is if is a separate line item (maybe an option), or if it gets backed into the shipping cost or price of the merchandise. All that said, customers should pay attention to how vulnerable they are to porch pirates. Using lockers or other destination alternatives should be considered. Retailers need to protect themselves, too. There could be a disclaimer that the customer must acknowledge. Regardless of everything that is done today, the thieves will find workarounds. But we’ll at least be making it more difficult for them.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

There must be a shared responsibility between retailers and consumers regarding porch piracy. As the holidays approach, so do the increased levels of porch piracy from apartment doorsteps and lobbies. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes to this challenge, especially in areas that are not secure where everything is up for grabs.

The brand and UPS/FedEx/Amazon/Walmart’s commitment to deliver the product as promised and on the day that was committed to when the purchase was made. Beyond that, it’s up to the customer to ensure that their apartment or place of delivery is safe to receive the product. If not, there are BOPIS, lockers, and receiving the product at your office options. Unfortunately, the honor system has recently taken a significant hit, and we should not expect stealing to go away soon.

Mark Self
BrainTrust

No they should not — it is not the consumers “fault” that they live in an area where this happens. However there should be an option for the recipient to come pick up the package. Or there should be a signature requirement option to ensure delivery.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

So when does it become the consumer’s fault? If they leave it outside for 24 hours after delivery and it disappears? How about over the weekend … or is it deemed owned after an hour? Once it crosses the threshold, so to speak, it’s been delivered and is owned by the consumer. If they live in a pirate area, then perhaps home delivery isn’t the smart approach for them, and a store locker is better.

Joel Rubinson
BrainTrust

It’s all part of the calculus that the shopper brain goes through. If they think that a package might get stolen they are less likely to order online for delivery. If online retailers want to retain that business, they might want to develop imbedded chip technology track and then prosecute.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

“Most retailers don’t have official policies on stolen, lost or damaged packages…” Not surprising, as I doubt many people — or retailers — have given much thought to it, concentrating instead on preventing it.

Like most of the poll respondents, I drifted into the less than often category(ies). I think most of us realize this could rapidly become a source of fraud. Alternately, retailers could offer insurance as an additional service, though I suspect many people would resent paying for something they feel should be taken for granted.

But whatever solution we go — or don’t go — with, yet another reminder that for all its joys, online shopping can be a pain-in-the-a** at times!

AB3
Guest

Consumers are not to blame here. Most stores provide little to no notice as to when packages will be arriving. While the occasional and proactive client may study what day the package is arriving, there is little beyond that.

Requiring signatures for high-value products is a no-brainer, although who has not had a delivery person “sign” for them when they weren’t home?

To me, the carriers and the retailers need to collaborate to solve this one together. The customer should contact who sold them the product, and a reasonable and seamless experience is necessary to “make it right,” recognizing that may be a different outcome for each circumstance. Otherwise, they won’t shop online from that same retailer in the future. Similarly, retailers should carefully consider and record how often clients are having issues with missing packages, and be wary of repeat offenders, maybe steering them towards coming into the store to pick up the replacement, offering store credit but not a refund for the item, etc.

Brad Halverson
Guest

Both consumers and the to-home platform (retailers and delivery companies) needs clearer processes and options for success.

Consumers need ways to configure in pre-ordering how, when and where deliveries are made or held. They’ll need to create safe holding if they require it. Retailers and delivery companies need to provide an array of delivery options — pick up at a hub, at USPS, a box in front of the home, a neighbor. Bottom line is, there are few options now and few have taken the time to focus on this. At minimum, Amazon at least takes a real-time snapshot of the package location. But there is so much room for improvement.

Oliver Guy
BrainTrust

Tricky area. In the UK during the pandemic couriers were more often leaving parcels on door steps — with the delivery mechanism including a photograph being submitted to show delivery. This may well result in the increase of porch piracy.
Consumers have a responsibility to be accountable — when the delivery has been successfully delivered (although I know of one example in my neighbourhood where the delivery was made to the wrong house and the customer had to walk around comparing doorsteps to the photo provided).

I have often wondered if Amazon bought Ring for the exact purpose of helping consumers with the issue of dealing with such issues. I certainly feel happier knowing there is a camera looking at my doorstep.

Anil Patel
BrainTrust

In my opinion, one effective solution to overcome the challenges associated with Porch Piracy is implementing the “BOPIS” solution. Customers picking up their orders do not need to worry about their parcels getting stolen. Additionally, retailers can also cross-sell and up-sell products to customers visiting their stores to pick-up their orders. Yet another solution in this situation can be facilitating “locker systems.” Customers can collect their orders as per availability, and also ensure that their orders are safely held till the time they are unavailable.

Bk
Guest
1 month 11 days ago

Brick and mortar stores have had to deal with ORC and other theft from stores for years and it has become just another cost of business for them. Why should porch piracy be any different for online retailers? This evens the playing field for these 2 types of competitors. Ultimately it is going to need to be society that steps up and holds these thieves accountable as we are all paying the price for these crimes.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"If disruptors are going to revolutionize the retail industry, they have an obligation to address the fulfillment dimension as well."
"The last foot, from outside the front door to inside the front door, is the responsibility of the customer. Period."
"If online retailers want to retain that business, they might want to develop imbedded chip technology track and then prosecute."

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