Will Grinches steal Christmas from America’s front porch?

Dec 04, 2019

Police departments across the country are on even greater alert than usual for thieves who steal packages from doorsteps and apartment building lobbies.

The problem of package theft continues to grow as more Americans do more of their shopping online. The New York Times reports that more than 90,000 packages a day disappear in New York City alone, about a 20 percent increase from four years ago. Across the country, more than 1.7 million packages are stolen or otherwise lost every day.

In Denver, according to the same report, police have seen a 68% increase in reported package thefts in the last four years. Washington, D.C. reported a marked increase as well.

Consumers, retailers, third-party vendors and law enforcement are all seeking ways to cut down on package theft.

Some consumers have turned to locker pickups from Amazon.com and others due to concerns about receiving their deliveries at home. Others choose to have packages delivered to their places of business. Third-party vendors such as BoxLock offer direct package tracking and smart padlocks that can be unlocked using an app.

FedEx and UPS are partnering with retailers to provide safe pickup points for online deliveries. FedEx and Walgreens, which first announced their exclusive partnership in 2017, offer package pickups and drop-offs at all of the drugstore chain’s 8,000-plus locations across the U.S. UPS Access Point services are located in nearly 8,000 CVS, 1,100 Michaels stores and many Advanced Auto Parts stores.

Retailers, many of whom offer buy online, pickup in-store or at curbside, offer many consumers the safest and most direct option for ensuring that products reach their intended final destination.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Where do you see the biggest opportunities for retailers to cut losses due to stolen or misplaced deliveries? How optimistic are you that the combined efforts of consumers, retailers, shipping companies and law enforcement will reduce package theft over the next five years?

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"Perhaps retailers can play a role by recommending alternatives if/when pirating plagues a particular consumer. Add it to the algorithm!"

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9 Comments on "Will Grinches steal Christmas from America’s front porch?"

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Carol Spieckerman
Carol Spieckerman
President, Spieckerman Retail
2 years 8 months ago

I once wondered why consumers would choose locker pick-up when they have perfectly good doorways. One answer? Porch pirates! As retailers get better at executing myriad convenience options, losses will only get worse. The best solutions may come from consumers themselves as home surveillance capabilities become more sophisticated and affordable. The good news in the meantime is that consumers do have so many options. Those that live in areas prone to pirating can always switch to store or locker pickup. Perhaps retailers can play a role by recommending alternatives if/when pirating plagues a particular consumer. Add it to the algorithm!

Liz Crawford

The Grinch has stolen items off of my porch! It’s very discouraging for customers. Even if you have RING or a similar security system, it’s a while before police can track down the thief.

What to do? Deliver to an Amazon safe box. Amazon owns the whole experience.

Jeff Weidauer

Unfortunately, porch piracy has become a lucrative vocation for a certain group of people. But brick-and-mortar retailers have an opportunity to use their stores as pick-up depots as Amazon has done with lockers in Whole Foods. There may even be an opportunity for personalized delivery services, filling the gap between UPS/FedEx and consumers. Until one of the stakeholders: seller, shipper, or consumer, takes responsibility for the problem and invests in finding a solution, it will only continue to grow.

Brandon Rael

Porch piracy has become a thing and, even with preventative measures, it quickly has become one of the biggest friction points of online shopping. However there is a clear silver lining for retailers, as they could leverage their physical stores as same-day fulfillment centers, or with the security and seamlessness of all the BOPIS offerings, including in-store pickup, curbside pickup, or their own version of secure Amazon lockers.

While it may take some time to develop law enforcement procedures to mitigate porch piracy, there is a unique opportunity for retailers to capitalize on the moment and establish a low-capital investment in BOPIS that will drive significant fulfillment cost savings, increase online sales, drive impulse shopping, and mitigate last-mile challenges.

Retailers: if you aren’t in the BOPIS game, then now is the time to ramp things up.

Ralph Jacobson

The retailer drop-off/pick-up points are a win-win-win for the retailers (opportunity for impulse shopping), shippers (less stops to make, saves costs) and consumers (secure package holding). This has got to increase as online shopping skyrockets.

Ed Rosenbaum

I understand the need for a drop box location during this time of year, especially with the uptake on “porch pirates.” Even with Ring or some other door camera, the pirates can be seen but not caught. Having to go to a drop box eases the concern of theft. But it creates another step in the purchasing process. Yes, it is simpler than going to the store, purchasing there and taking home. But it is another step we were trying to prevent by buying online.

James Tenser

I read the NYT article this week feeling a mix of outrage and irony. Porch piracy has become a meaningful drag on “friction-free” e-commerce. I loved reading that many stolen items, still in their original packaging, wind up for sale again online. #geniusthieves

In private homes, one obvious solution is a through-the-wall home package locker mounted near the front door or garage. Not a brand-new idea, but IoT connectivity would add to the security and might even enable returns pickups.

Retrofitting to apartments is harder. Just leaving packages piled on the floor is plain dumb. We’ve heard about lobby lockers, but they can be a tight fit in smaller, older buildings. In tight urban neighborhoods, I’d opt for street-facing kiosks on every corner.

Paco Underhill

The problem is only going to get worse. An e-commerce colleague related to me that she had a hundred packages left outside the front door of her Miami Beach Condo on Black Friday. In my own building the delivery issue is a hot topic at our co-op board meeting. The analog end to our digital world, at least in the USA, is on the verge of break down. The delivery engine works in gated suburbs, but in main stream America it is unsustainable and ecologically unacceptable.

Casey Golden
2 years 8 months ago

Over the past 8 years in NYC, only just recently has FedEx actually rung my bell for a delivery. Typically, packages are left outside while I was home specifically to accept a delivery. Text messages for delivery notices are becoming more common and closer to real-time, this can help consumers anticipate delivery and reduce the amount of time a package is left unattended. Locker pick-ups in Brooklyn are a huge inconvenience as the subway does not always go anywhere near the drop off location, requiring an Uber to and from. Non-branded delivery boxes is a simple initiative that can immediately cut losses by reducing the porch advertising.

"Perhaps retailers can play a role by recommending alternatives if/when pirating plagues a particular consumer. Add it to the algorithm!"

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