Amazon, American Delivering The Goods
Making sure the goods get to their ultimate destinations surely and swiftly is a hot consumer issue. A program that Amazon.com rolled out a year ago that places “delivery lockers” in major cities has expanded to about 50 grocery, convenience and drugstores, Greg Bensinger reports in the Wall Street Journal this morning, allowing customers to pick up packages in neighborhoods where they might otherwise get pinched from the doorstep. And American Airlines is introducing a new service that will deliver luggage to passengers’ offices, hotels or homes for a fee ranging from $29.95 to $49.95, Charisse Jones reports in USA Today.
Bensinger compares the free Amazon service to programs run by big box retailers such as Walmart and Best Buy that allow customers to make in-store pickups of their online purchases. But since Amazon doesn’t have any storefronts of its own, it has cut deals with the likes of 7-Eleven.
“Customers … are emailed a code after a package arrives that unlocks the door holding their merchandise,” writes Bensinger. “The lockers can hold only smaller items that weigh less than 10 pounds, such as books, DVDs or electronic devices like iPads. Users have several days to retrieve their merchandise.”
Packages that are not picked up within three days are returned to Amazon. Full details on how the program works are available on the Amazon website, but the company has been consistently coy about its locations and plans when pressed by reporters for details.
TechCrunch’s Anthony Ha reported on July 30 that the experiment had expanded from Seattle, where it launched last year, to at least New York, Washington, D.C., and London and that a colleague had recently spotted three new lockers in Silicon Valley. Engadget has also been tracking the progression of outlets from the prototype in Seattle’s Capitol Hill district to northern Virginia just outside the nation’s capital in June.
The Daily’s Matt Hickey, who broke the story of the locker program in September 2011, reported light usage for the ones in Seattle last March. “They pay some money to have them here, and [the owner] was told these would bring customers into the store,” a manager of a 7-Eleven in Capitol Hill told him. “But hardly anybody uses them. People like to come and look, though.”
Forrester Research analyst Brian Walker tells Bensinger that the concept might be more popular overseas, particularly in countries such as China where home delivery of packages is not routine.
PR Newswire, meanwhile, carried a release yesterday with the hed: “American Airlines Wants You To Relax And Give Your Back A Break.” Starting yesterday, the carrier is teaming up with BAGS VIP Luggage Delivery to have travelers’ bags dropped at a final destination at more than 200 U.S. domestic airports and select international cities.
Airfarewatchdog.com founder George Hobica tells USA Today’s Jones that several third-party companies have offered baggage delivery for years but that it looks like the airline now wants a piece of the action. Jones also makes the point that other carriers are sure to follow if the service -– which promises delivery within four hours if the address is within 40 miles -- proves successful.
"I think it's brilliant," Hobica says, "unless they end up losing bags."
This follows a report yesterday that airlines overall have been misrouting fewer checked bags. The problems of lost luggage had become “so pervasive,” the New York Times’ Christine Negroni wrote in her lede, “it gave rise to a joke in which an airline hijacker tells the pilot, ‘I demand you take me to where my luggage is going.’” (Don’t try telling that one to the ticket agent.)
In 2011, 99.1% of travelers retrieved their bags at the right place at the right time, according to SITA, a communications and IT firm that refers to itself as the "communication backbone" of the global air transport industry. SITA credits digital technology for contributing to the reduction in the number of mishandled bags per thousand passengers from 18 just five years ago to 9 last year.
But there are higher expectations, too, now that airlines charge passengers for handling the luggage that they don’t carry aboard themselves.
“If I’m paying to have my bag carried, I have the right to think it’s going to arrive on time and at my destination,” SITA’s Nick Gates tells Negroni.
In other words, I guess, you get delivered what you pay for.