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Rethinking Distribution, Disinviting Theft

Back in the olden days, refilling your gas tank was a real inconvenience. The process would go one of two ways:

  1. Get out of the car, start filling your car.
  2. If it’s busy, you get in your car and drive out of the refill area into the parking area. If it wasn’t busy, you’d get to skip this step and go straight to…
  3. Walk in the gas station, wait in line, tell them which station you are, pay for your gas.
  4. Walk back out to your car, get in, and leave


  1. Get out of the car, go inside and give them your credit card or the estimated amount of cash.
  2. Go back out to your car, fill your tank.
  3. If it’s busy, you get in your car and drive out of the refill area into the parking area. If it wasn’t busy, you’d get to skip this step and go straight to…
  4. Walk in the gas station, wait in line, get any change that might be due to you or pay any amount you owe, if they didn’t cut you off.
  5. Walk back out to your car, get in, and leave

It was the first, and more convenient, series of steps most of the time. You only ran into the second when you were in a place where there was substantial risk that someone would gas and go (skip the tab). That was most common in high-crime urban areas or rural areas where people would be able to flee without worrying about being impeded by traffic. But in both cases, it was a real hassle. Jerry Seinfeld had a commercial about trying to get the amount of the fill exactly right. Except in real life, you always had to go in and pay the extra. He was never conveniently out there, scowling or otherwise.

It was that last bit, the ability to pay at the pump, that changed everything. Unlike most innovations, it actually occurred in the poor and crime-infested places first. I was in college and my university was in the wrong part of town. All of the gas stations near my school had it way before the ones in posh suburbia did. It was a question of where the flight risks were.

Credits cards were around. Was it really that hard for someone to think of the amazing utility of allowing self-swipe at the pump? Evidently so. But when it took off, it took off. The process of the first pay-at-the-pump appearing all the way through to being able to pull into virtually any gas station anywhere and not have to go inside took two or three years at most. Once people got to pay at the pump, they started discriminating very heavily against places that didn’t have that option. Gas stations, who make more of their money on candy bars than they do on gas, probably didn’t welcome the change. But they had little choice.

In retrospect, it is amazing to me that we put up with it. It’s actually surprising the inconveniences we will put up with until somebody introduces a solution to the problem.

Amazon has an idea:

On Nov. 8, Amazon will begin offering a secure-lock service, called Amazon Key, that will give Amazon Logistics delivery personnel permission to unlock a customer’s door for 5 minutes. Using the Cloud Cam, a new Amazon device shoppers first buy, the entire delivery will be live-streamed to the customer and also sent as a video snippet.

The service is an effort to thwart one of the problems of Amazon’s popular package delivery service — theft — and make it easier for customers to arrange deliveries.

The company has been testing Amazon Key for several months at various sites around the country and thinks it’s going to be a game-changer.

“This is not a trial. This is the fundamental way we think customers are going to order and receive their goods,” said Peter Larsen, Amazon’s vice president for delivery technology.

The idea has been met mostly with derision on my Twitter and Facebook feeds, but they are completely crazy. Because this is one of those things that, when you think about it, it’s amazing that we put up with. We have packages sitting on our front steps all day long while we are at work. Just about anyone can walk up and steal it. It used to be worse because there wasn’t even package tracking, but even now there is still the vague concern. For people like me, it’s more than just a vague concern. One of the best job perks I ever had was being able to ship things directly to my job. Otherwise, I would spend all day worried that my package wouldn’t be there when I got home.

That is crazy. And with the right incentives, it would be entirely avoidable.

Amazon Key is just one way of going about it. Yes, there is something off-putting about allowing some random delivery person into your intimate space when you’re not there. I’m surprised they haven’t offered some sort of lock box on your porch that only you and the Amazon people can open. Or you and the UPS or FedEx guy. But the truth is there are a number of ways to solve this problem. There has just never been the incentive to do it. We’re stuck thinking about this in a certain way, and the people making the decisions historically haven’t had any reason to think beyond that way.

The main problem is that the person who selects the carrier isn’t really the one interested in making sure that it’s not stolen. And the person who selects the carrier is the customer. Any inconvenience to the recipient isn’t really their problem. The recipients may care, but not enough of them care enough to choose a vendor based on whether they ship UPS, FedEx, or USPS. And they sometimes trade packages around so you don’t even know who is going to do the last mile. So everybody is acting quite rationally, with the odd result of people being at constant risk of having their new crap stolen.

Other ways of solving it, besides Amazon Key and a Lockbox, is everyone having an account with the shippers with instructions on where to leave the package. Or the ability to store the package at a location to pick it up on the way home from work. If the shippers were interested in servicing the recipients, the recipient could have control over the package. They are finally starting to introduce these things in 2017, but this could have been put to rest years ago. Instead, they’ve set things up almost entirely for the shipper so that everyone can wash their hands of it and it’s the recipient’s problem.

We recently had a case where the package was being sent to an old address. In a sane world, we would have been able to reroute it. We would have even paid a fee! But no, their job was to assure the shipper that it was delivered to the specified address and after that it wasn’t their problem. The people at the old house received the package, and both UPS and the shipper were done with it. Now, granted, it was our bad for giving them the wrong address. But this was a correctable problem, if they had any interest in correcting it. And if it affected the shipper, I strongly suspect they would have.

Now, Amazon has a strong enough interest in doing something about this, because they desperately want to facilitate people buying as much online as possible. They have the logistics and unlike with UPS, we are actually their customer.

Image by lisaclarke Rethinking Distribution, Disinviting Theft

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Will Truman is a former para-IT professional who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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80 thoughts on “Rethinking Distribution, Disinviting Theft

  1. I think this is part of the bigger trend of flattening out distribution chains in general. Elon Musk talked about the fact that one way of reducing costs in their space program is having control of most of their supply. With fewer companies getting paid profits, the cost savings carry forward. This also has the benefit that the drive is now, not to make a profit, but to solve a customer’s problem.

    Obviously, the analogy to Amazon isn’t perfect but it is similar. For the longest time, businesses considered anything not part of their core mandate to be outsourceable without any real consequences. When we start reattaching these severed limbs, we begin to see what we gave up.


  2. A couple disjointed thoughts on this:

    a. As someone who lives alone, works long hours, and orders a crapton of stuff online (because shopping in my town sucks, and there are even some grocery staples it’s easier to order online), I wish there were a better solution to “porch pirates.”

    I do not like the idea of giving the security of my house over to an IoT linked device – too much chance for either prank-hacking (“Hey let’s lock her out by changing the code!”) or creepy malicious hacking (“Let’s unlock the door late at night!”).

    I am “Sheldon Cooper” enough to be bothered by the idea of a stranger entering my house when I am not home.

    But I do worry about some jerk stealing my book or order of tea or whatever off the front porch – not that they’ll really profit off it, but I won’t get my stuff, it will be inconvenient, and chances are they’ll just toss it in a Dumpster when they find it’s not something they can fence easily. (Having stuff delivered to my workplace is not feasible: too small of a staff to handle the onslaught of boxes if everyone had their online orders sent there)

    I would like houses to have a package-sized lockbox on the garage or front porch. Big enough, heavy enough, and bolted down, so it would be harder for thieves to access. The delivery people would have a key or a passcode to open it and stick the package in there. (Bonus: make ’em well insulated, and then people like me can order “refrigerate upon delivery” food and still work our 10-12 hour days).


    I love pay at the pump and it annoys me how some of the local news stories about the “skimmers” and other modes of stealing the customer’s credit card information seem to focus heavily on – and outright suggest – we go back to the old inconvenient model where we walk into the office of the station, pay in advance (‘cos we ain’t ever going back to “gas up then pay”), gas up, go back to get a refund if we’re due one or to pay more if we underestimated the gas it would take then fill the rest of the way….I had to do this recently when the CC reader on a pump was broken and I forgot how time consuming it was. (And also, if a gas station is in a “stop n rob” neighborhood, you do not necessarily want to be hanging out in its mini mart)

    I suspect the solution to “porch pirates” will be floated of “Hey, let’s have centralized distribution centers where Amazon and places can ship to, and customers can just drive there and pick their stuff up” which will again hurt rural and smalltown folk (who already have fewer shopping options than city dwellers). For example: the nearest UPS “hub” to me is an hour to the east. There’s no way I could go out there on a weekday to pick something up, not given the hours they keep. But I suspect that will be an idea proposed, just as the post office has talked of “Let’s have communal mailboxes, like apartments have, at the end of every street, and stop residential delivery, so people can just walk or drive down to the end of their neighborhood at the end of the day to get their mail.”

    It does seem a lot of the “solutions” I see currently being floated – at least in my area – wind up putting more effort on the consumer. That might be fine for some people, but when I’m at work from 7 am to 5 pm, as I am some days, the last thing I want to do is drive to the post office to try to get my mail, or try to arrange to drive to damned Hugo to pick up a UPS package.


    • To defeat the “card skimming” various gas stations I’ve seen have but stickers over joints and key locks. If these stickers are broken, you don’t use the pump. Seems to work reasonably well.


      • That’s not done 100% of the time here. Again, the focus seems very much on “the customers need to alter their behavior” rather than “the owners of the gas station need to be more careful.” There is one chain that seems to be consistently better about security and I buy gas from them, but when I’m traveling it’s not always possible.


      • Skimmers take a few minutes to install, and are easy to spot if you know what your readers are supposed to look like. Station attendants should be doing regular walk around of the pumps to be looking for signs of tampering.


        • @fillyjonk

          The reason the stickers are on the pumps is that there was a minor rash of card skimmers in some areas of the county. Not sure if they actually got cards or were caught installing the skimmers, etc., but the county police published a warning and a recommendation to put up the stickers.


      • I got hit with a skimmer about six months back. Wasn’t paying attention. Luckily, my bank caught it. (I’ve never in my life withdrew my cash limit from an ATM, much less one in another city.)

        In retrospect, given the timing and the fact that they’d gotten my PIN and not just my card number, it was pretty easy to work out where the skimmer was installed. (An air pump at a gas station, with the pump out of sight of the main desk. I used my debit card instead of running back to get change…)

        Was a massive hassle replacing the card, of course.


    • I saw one company with a padlock for a porch lockbox. The padlock is an IoT device, and it has a laser scanner. If you are expecting a package,cwhen you get the tracking number, you connect to the lock and enter the tracking number. When UPS delivers, they scan the label with the lock, and if it recognizes the number, it pops open.


    • I don’t think they will ever stop delivering to houses entirely, but having the option of “swinging by” seems possible (like something whey would/should have done a long time ago). But Amazon wants people to be able to get their packages, so I think they’ll insist on something more convenient than that. Could be that people have to choose between unprotected porches and distribution centers. That’s one more choice than most people have right now, however!

      I didn’t know that card skimming was still a thing. I remember it from a while back, but thought that the thieves had moved on.


      • I dunno but here card skimming is still a big issue. Have also heard rumors that some Wal-mart “unstaffed” checkout lanes (the self-check areas) had had them installed, which really seems like there’s a case against wal-mart for negligence there. I mean, I know they don’t have enough employees to do the work and don’t pay them well, but at LEAST have someone walk by and check the credit-card readers twice a day if you’re going to have one manned checklane open and expect most of your customers to use the self-check-out.


  3. I’m totally cool with having a “delivery” box, but I don’t want some random delivery guy entering my house. Same reason I don’t like house cleaners in my house without me around. I had a very expensive watch “disappear” during the time the house painters were painting.

    If the house was build with a attached vestibule, where delivery guys would have a place to access but not access the main house, sure. Doubt construction of such things will become a “thing” anytime soon though.


    • I’m glad I’m not the only one not cool with random delivery guys coming in my house; have had friends pooh-pooh my concerns.

      Maybe I AM paranoid, but as a single woman? You gotta be a little paranoid in this world.


        • I will say, I was bemoaning earlier this fall:

          “The survivalist types tell you to ‘avoid stupid places’ but what do you do when shooters lead to your workplace and your church maybe being a ‘stupid place’?”

          I mean, I won’t hang out on the bad side of town or go to the sketchy liquor store, but….I’m not ready to go Full Hermit quite yet.


              • Window :)

                I remember back in high school a friend and I were discussing fleeing a party (everyone was underage drinking) if the cops showed up. I said “out the window, run right, jump over the fence”. The cops did show up and we all poured out the back window. Some kids, unfamiliar with the area, ran right into the barbed wire fence and got snagged–the one I jumped over. Cops picked them up. Me? I got away.


          • There are different ways to deal with security, though.

            We live 2 blocks from Skid Row in downtown LA, yet we don’t feel the need to lock our door.

            We have gotten to know our neighbors, and Mrs. Daniels leaves little bags of cookies at their door; we know the people we meet walking dogs at the nearby park, and we know some of the homeless people by name and give them snacks and friendship.

            Our sense of security isn’t provided by locks and guns, but a network of trusted friends. We walk through sketchy areas even at night without fear.


  4. Actually in newer developments with cluster mailboxes you already have shared parcel lockers which are locked along with locked individual mail boxes. In my area Amazon has switched to using the USPS for the final mile so most shipments show up in the parcel locker except for the sunday deliveries which appear at the door.
    Once upon a time it was proposed to move more folks from either the subdivisions with rural mail boxes or door mail boxes to the cluster location. (Note that if handicapped you can arrange to have the USPS deliver to your house) Or you can do like I did when living in Houston and rent a mailbox at a private mailbox place who accept parcels for you so none are left out. (This does have the advantage of being agnostic in who delivers the parcel)
    (So the amazon locker is just another version of part of the business of the UPS store)

    Note that my subdivision is over 30 years old and has the cluster boxes.


    • makes a point I was also going to add, based on this part of the OP:

      “I’m surprised they haven’t offered some sort of lock box on your porch that only you and the Amazon people can open.”

      While I like that idea, I think it could run into issues with the lockbox not being properly maintained, or simple aesthetic issues, however I do *ahem* know a little bit about this business and these are a new option that UPS is offering. Not quite as convenient, but completely secure.


      • Of course as I noted another division of UPS already offers the equivalent of the lock boxes, all be you can’t pick up 24/7. It is called the UPS store, get a private mailbox there and they will accept packages for you (if the shipper is willing to ship to other than the billing address). When I lived in Houston for the USPS it was always at least 1/2 wait to pick up a package at the post office, never that long at the UPS store (note also that you can mail things there )


  5. My experience with the pay-at-the-pump devices has been… less than wholly positive.

    Dragonfrog: Ok, I’ll just read the instructions and (beep beep boop) oops I skipped a step. Guess I’m starting over

    Pump robot: Ack! Confuse! Does not compute! Does not compute! Screeeeeee!

    Dragonfrog: Mr T I think I gave this one a seizure, can you pull around to the other side?

    In grocery stores and whatnot, if you miss a step, the debit terminal just goes ‘that didn’t work – back to step one’. I don’t know why the gas pump ones are so sensitive.

    It doesn’t help that some gas pumps had a sticker with the old instructions and another with the new instructions and a third that says “please disregard the instructions on the white sticker – use only the ones on the yellow sticker”


    • Weird. I’ve never had a problem with a (functional) pay at the pump terminal, but the grocery store self-checkouts? They regularly clamp down and throw an error message at me, so I won’t use ’em, unless the alternative is standing in line for 15 minutes (which it can be, at busy times)


      • Oh I wasn’t talking about the self check out kiosks – just the debit machines at the regular till. I am similarly talented at putting the self check out machines onto a panic that requires a store employee to resolve.


  6. Since moving to the city I have experienced the old school version of this very thing.

    When we get packages, they come to the lobby and are received by the security guard, who stores them in a room and puts a tag on our mailbox to let us know. We take the tag and sign for the package when we get home.

    What this does, is shift our conception of our private boundaries, loosening the circle of intimacy just a bit, the way that city life does in general by forcing us into chance encounters and relationships.


    • Yeah, doormen and/or security guards are definitely a solution. It’s one of the few things I was always envious about the northeasterners. Such things are more common up there. None of the apartment complexes I lived in ever had such thing, and for whatever reason they couldn’t be left at the front desk.


  7. “One of the best job perks I ever had was being able to ship things directly to my job. Otherwise, I would spend all day worried that my package wouldn’t be there when I got home.”

    Much of this article seems to be written with the assumption that this worry is universal. It is not.


  8. I think you are misunderstanding the relationship between the carrier, the vendor, and the customer. The carrier is hired by the vendor, full stop. They may give you some choice in what carrier they hire and what instructions they give to the carrier, but ultimately, they are paying the carrier and the carrier is responsible to them. That is why the carrier won’t reroute a package in transit. For all they know, you are some phony trying to steal a package. They have no relationship with you. They have a relationship with the vendor. They honor the vendor’s wishes.


    • That was the point of this paragraph:

      The main problem is that the person who selects the carrier isn’t really the one interested in making sure that it’s not stolen. And the person who selects the carrier is the customer. Any inconvenience to the recipient isn’t really their problem. The recipients may care, but not enough of them care enough to choose a vendor based on whether they ship UPS, FedEx, or USPS. And they sometimes trade packages around so you don’t even know who is going to do the last mile. So everybody is acting quite rationally, with the odd result of people being at constant risk of having their new crap stolen.

      So it’s all quite rational that things are the way they are. But they don’t have to be this way. It takes vendors and shipping companies thinking outside the box. Which is what Amazon is doing, though I think they are working further out of the box than they need to. Shippers don’t need to think as far out of the box because there are only three of them or so.

      While this problem isn’t universal, I think it’s common enough to be surprising that even given the above, no solution to it has been found. However, the fact that the decision-makers themselves are on the safer side of things probably does play a role. If they had to worry about their stuff getting stolen, there would probably be a solution in place.


        • FedEx is weird. They’d prefer to attempt to deliver three times in vain, rather than let you schedule a delivery.

          Oh you can schedule a delivery — if you pay FedEx extra. Per delivery.

          Which seems like crazy business logic to me. You’d think they’d be begging people to schedule it, so that “Signature required” deliveries were never wastes of driver time.


              • If a person wants to see me talk with my hands like “agitated Italian man #2” from central casting, they can ask me about the time I got a barbecue shipped to our house because it was simpler than trying to bring it home from the hardware store on my bike.

                Let’s just say that sometimes the driving by the house to no avail even happens when somebody’s home – the driver just, for whatever reason, runs up to the door without bothering to grab the parcel, rings the bell and slaps a “you weren’t home” sticker on the door in the same gesture, and has the van in gear by the time the occupant of the house has made it from the kitchen to the front door.


              • Depends on the delivers that day. The trucks are given a pre-planned route at the start of the run, set to be as efficient as possible for the given deliveries. Your requested time is probably no where close to the planned route that day.


        • There is nothing insane about a shipper offering a recipient the ability to re-route a package to a location the shipper has staffed, or to a lock box. I’d love to be able to tell UPS to deliver a package to the UPS store that I pass on my way home everyday. Walk in, have them verify my ID, and hand me my box. Be worth paying a small reroute fee for the service. I could see local businesses doing something similar, much like how the Safeway down the hill allows Amazon to put up one of it’s lockers.


          • I’m not arguing rerouting in transit is insane. I’m arguing that thinking the inability to do so in the current system is reflective of an insane world shows a misunderstanding of the relationships involving the vendor, the carrier, and the buyer.

            What stops me from calling FedEx and asking to have your package rerouted? Amazon (or whomever) paid FedEx to bring the package from Location A to Location B. Why would they bring it anywhere else unless instructed by Amazon? The best route to rerouting (heh) is through the vendor.


            • Obviously a reroute has to be done smartly. The caller would have to know the tracking number and intended destination, as well as be able to show proper ID at pickup (or have the barcode like at the lockers).

              Theft is still possible, but is now a lot more involved than just swiping a box off a porch.

              What’s insane is not that UPS didn’t come up with this themselves. As you say, they don’t really care. What’s insane is that this has been a known issue for years and Amazon is only now trying to deal with it. You’d think given the amount of business Amazon does with the various shipping firms, they’d have applied a lot of pressure to get the shippers to become part of the solution.


                  • Sorry, that’s what I meant. If you want it delivered to this house instead of that house, UPS assumes a lot of risk. If it’s to a UPS facility/store where they can verify identity, they mitigate the risk.


                    • If you think of all the things we do with a username and password, rerouting a package seems relatively minor.

                      When you order the product, allow people to link their store account or purchase to a UPS account. From there, that UPS account can reroute.

                      FTR I am okay with “original address or you have to pick it up with ID” but it’s not the only reasonable way. I want the account link up for other reasons.


              • “What’s insane is not that UPS didn’t come up with this themselves.”

                Unfortunately, UPS isn’t the kind of company that is considered creative enough to actually change people’s habits. Amazon is. From an anthropological perspective I am absolutely fascinated by how quickly they have become a leader in actually changing human behavior.

                It makes me think a bit of car companies in the late 90s/early 2000s. The opinion of many then was that Japanese companies were succeeding by telling customers what they wanted while American companies were asking them what they wanted. Amazon is telling people what services they want.

                Quick story: Every morning I ask my Amazon Echo to play my Flash Briefing while I am getting dressed. It gives me the headlines, some tech news, etc. When I am dressed I say ‘Echo Stop’ and head into the kitchen, where my dog gets his morning arthritis medicine, wrapped in turkey. Because he is a creature of habit and finds turkey to be delicious…the phrase ‘Echo Stop’ now makes him hop up and walk into the kitchen.

                So yeah, they are changing our culture daily.


          • Of course if the shipper is willing to ship to a different address from the get go you can do this today, just rent a private mailbox there (recall they used to be called mailboxes etc) and they will accept and hold deliveries for you. They would put a notice in your mailbox you would open it get the notice and exchange it for the parcel.
            I suspect the rental fee would be less than the reroute fee.


    • I think this is what Will is saying. The person who selects the carrier is the customer from the carrier’s perspective. You, the recipient, are not the customer of the carrier, and are treated accordingly.

      When I lived in an apartment, UPS would not leave a package at my door. It would pure elitism. USPS would do it, and I never had any problem. The result was that I always requested USPS shipping, and would not order from any outfit unwilling to do this. So I was the carrier’s customer in a sense, but so indirectly that UPS felt no need to accommodate my needs.


    • What’s really sad is that there was no criminal prosecution in this case. It’s seems as though our Justice Dept. has become more interested in filling the Treasury’s coffers with civil penalties than in pursuing justice against the criminals who perpetrate these financial crimes. Even more sad is the fact that the penalty levied in this case will never be collected.


    • they aren’t? I have heard of people putting their dog’s leavings in an Amazon box, retaping it, and leaving it on their porch….

      When I had problems with someone stealing greeting cards out of the mail stream (turned out it was someone in the local PO; they were looking for cash or gift cards), I was really, really tempted to load a card up with a piece of cardstock the size and weight of a store gift card….and put a crapton of glitter in there too. (And tell the “official” recipient about it, just in case that one made it through)


          • Either one seems fine to me.

            But I have been playing with a simple design that you fill with bulk printer toner. I’m thinking a mix of toner and flour to make it basically impossible to wash out if it gets into your carpet or car upholstery. The trick is getting the delivery mechanism just right. It’s easy enough to use the movement of the box opening to disburse it, but something with some stored energy like a twisted up rubber band and some Popsicle sticks seems better.

            Recommendations for a better staining agent are welcome.


              • Glitter is pretty good, but having vacuumed both glitter and toner, I’m going to have to give toner the win. The only thing about toner is that it’s vulnerable to dabbing up with cold water (hot water turns it into ink and you’re screwed). But adding some flour or some other water-activated gluing agent should solve that problem.

                Stink agents are hard to mask in the packaging. The ideal package is taken all the way into a car or home before being opened.

                I considered toner along with some sort of foaming agent to spread it around, but the foaming reactions all tend to be exothermic, which could be considered weapon-y.

                These things are not as fun as the boom box, but I fear the law. Credit where credit is due, those videos are the best videos since Blender Defender.


  9. As fascinating as I find this post on a logistical level, it mostly made me realize how lucky I am:
    1) Stuff pretty much never goes missing from my porch or mailbox.
    2) In the statistically rare (less than 1 percent) case where it does, I’ve never had a single problem with amazon (even amazon.ca!) sending me a replacement for free.

    Which I mention not to shill for Amazon, but more to say that until this moment it never occurred to me that “replacing stolen stuff within reason” was not something most companies would eat as a cost of doing business, so I have almost never worried about package deliveries.


  10. Isn’t there anyone here old enough to remember when the gas station attendant came to your car, you rolled down the window, told the attendant how much gas you wanted, and paid when he — it was always a he — finished? (Of course, if you’re that old, you remember when “Two dollars worth of regular” was a common order.)
    The pharmacy across the street from my house accepts UPS packages that the driver won’t, for whatever reason, leave at the customer’s door. We get a notice and go pick it up.


    • I’m old enough to remember being envious of my older brother’s 14 year old friend who was lucky enough to have a job doing that. He had a shirt with his name on it and everything.

      Back in those days, we called it “Ethyl”.
      “Ten dollars of Ethyl” my mom would say, and my brother’s friends would snigger when they said they wanted to “pump Ethyl”.

      Something something onion, belt, etc.


    • For Canada Post parcels with signature required, they end up at the nearest post office if they miss you. And, at least in the city, that’s usually not too too far out of the way.

      For private courier companies, they seem to end up in some fairly far-flung depots, potentially “for my convenience” located further away than the store from which the parcel was shipped…


    • If you live in Oregon, they still do that for you.

      I’m old enough to remember full service pumps being an option, although they were largely gone by the time I reached adulthood.


      • They’re the law in NJ. NY and CT (maybe others) do offer some full service pumps, where they’ll come out and pump your gas but charge more per gallon. I imagine this is for the NJ folks who have no idea how to do it themselves.


    • When I was a kid that was still the case. By the time I could drive it was not the case anymore (although some gas stations do still do it in smaller parts of the island where I grew up, as an option). I vaguely remember the drama that getting rid of full service everywhere caused in terms of lost jobs, worries about customers blowing up gas stations by accident, etc.


  11. The proper solution here is actually for every neighborhood to have a reasonably sane community center, which would include (among other things) a shipping drop point.

    Having so many of our services centered at our domiciles is kinda bonkers.


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