As more consumers embrace the convenience and cost-savings of e-commerce, more horror stories emerge about people getting their packages stolen in broad daylight.
Sometimes, it’s a crime of opportunity—a thief spies a package on a doorstep and carries it away. Others are more sophisticated. I’ve heard accounts of package-snatchers following UPS and FedEx trucks through neighborhoods and snagging parcels as soon as they are delivered.
While this sounds like a scheme only the Grinch Who Stole Christmas could hatch, it’s very real, and no one is safe. Statistics are hard to come by, but anecdotally, using my social network and neighborhood as an informal focus group, people are getting their packages stolen from homes in busy urban neighborhoods, safe, working-class areas and quiet, more removed enclaves of cities across America.
Of course, quitting online shopping is a patently absurd idea, so how can we sideline these swindlers? Here are a few tips keep your packages safe, for free or a nominal cost.
1. Let Slice help you plan around deliveries.
The easiest way to make sure your packages are safe is to make sure you’re home when they are delivered. This isn’t always easy – many retailers have frustratingly-wide shipping windows so large the cable company puts them to shame. This makes it nearly impossible to know when your item will grace your doorstep. Slice is a free app that tracks your packages for you on a nifty little map—and sends you alerts when it is out for delivery and when it is delivered, right to your phone.
2. Deliver your packages to your office.
Cost: Free + Bribes for Reception
Occasionally sending your deliveries to the office is a reliable way to keep package plunderers off your doorstep, but avid shoppers should consider another, more considerate option. Turning your receptionist’s desk into a personal Shipping & Receiving center will not make you popular at the office and may spur a policy that puts the kibosh on not only you, but everyone else at the office, using this convenience (really, really bad for you). To avoid this fate, we advise plying your receptionist with copious amounts of gratitude and small gifts to keep a good thing going—no matter how many packages you make him or her deal with.
3. Organize your neighborhood.
You know what they say: sometimes it takes a village. The silver lining of unfortunate events is they often create community. Rally your neighbors to keep an extra watch for suspicious activity. Getting together will also help everyone recognize neighbors so they know when it’s not you snooping around your stoop.
A neighborhood social is a great way to make new friends, and thieves tend to avoid neighborhoods with active, nosey neighbors. Difficulty getting everyone together? There are neighborhood apps, like NextDoor, that facilitate communication, crime reporting/prevention and overall community cohesion, and creating a community online is simple and free using an Internet forum, such as Yahoo! Groups.
4. Install a camera – and let thieves know they are being watched.
Cameras can be an effective way to keep burglars at bay, and these days, you don’t need to be a millionaire to lock down your house like Fort Knox. The key is to install your cameras where they can’t be disarmed or obstructed, while making it obvious to the would-be bandits that their activities will be caught on camera, by posting a sign or notice.
5. Use an Amazon Locker.
In some cities, Amazon has rolled out Amazon Lockers to increase the convenience and safety of getting your goods from the retailer. Lockers are self-service kiosks placed in shopping centers, retail stores, transit stations and other locations in cities where Amazon is particularly popular (today that’s Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Philadelphia, New York, the Washington, DC area and Austin).
Here’s how it works: you choose an Amazon Locker as your shipping address and get a pickup code when the package is delivered—which you can grab at your convenience. If you don’t have this service in your town, you can always get a PO box, or use a mailbox service for a monthly fee.