Three packages from Amazon on a door mat. One cardboard box and two plastic shipping bags.

Fighting Back Against Package Theft and Porch Pirates

I got a surprise when my latest shipment arrived from Amazon. Though their app has been providing delivery notifications for a long time, this one startled me.

Photo Finish

Screen shot of the Amazon app showing a package in front of the doorstep where it was just delivered.
Photo of a package at the moment of delivery

Not only did the app tell me when the package was delivered, but it included a picture of it in the place where it landed.

The photo was crude. You wouldn’t be able to identify either the package or the doorstep in a lineup. However, I recognized the location where it was delivered.

The photo was so bad that I wondered how it was taken. A typical police body cam would have done a better job, even while clipped onto an officer being dragged by a car. Still, it met the need.

did take the opportunity they provided to “Tell us what you think about this photo. I responded:

It’s a really poor quality picture, but still useful. Of course a better photo would be more useful if I didn’t find the package waiting for me.

I.E.: You can’t definitively identify the package or the location, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Porch Pirates

Package theft becomes more common as Christmas approaches. Amazon arguably helps fuel the problem due to the way they break orders into multiple shipments. Though I chose two-day delivery from the many options, you never really know how long it will take.

This particular order for three items was ultimately broken-up into three shipments that arrived on three different days. The order was processed like this:

  1. Order placed Sunday evening for three items
  2. Confirmation email showed it broken into a Wednesday delivery and a Thursday delivery
  3. Received the first package on Tuesday, a day earlier than expected
  4. Received a second package on Wednesday
  5. Third package arrived Thursday

Breaking an order into three parts means three times as many opportunities for thieves. In this case, the third delivery was the one that got to pose for the camera.

Pilot Program against Package Theft

This has all the marks of one of Amazon’s many pilot programs. Delivering packages via their own drivers started as one of those programs, and now a significant percentage of packages I receive from Amazon arrive in unmarked vehicles. (This time the first and third deliveries were via Amazon. The second one arrived via UPS.)

This use of technology also helps address an issue that Amazon’s customer service department probably spends a lot of time on: Missing deliveries.

A business like Amazon thrives on frictionless customer experience. In this context that means you place the order online and the product magically shows-up at your door or one of their lockers. Taking a picture of your delivered package may provide a useful customer service. If you know it’s there, you might take steps to grab it yourself or let someone else know.

It could also provide Amazon and their delivery partners some legal and financial coverage: When a customer complains that a package was never delivered, they’d whip out the photo. That sounds like a win for both the company and the delivery services.

In case you still don’t like the idea, the app included an option under the photo labeled “Don’t take delivery photos.” Are images like this too creepy for you, or would you tell Amazon you like this idea?

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