A stranger’s in the house … to drop off your Amazon package


By The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board



You’re waiting for an important package to be delivered. Or for the furnace repairman to arrive. Or the cable guy. Their companies can’t tell you exactly when they’ll be there. So you pace. And you peer out the window. And you hope you’re not in the bathroom when someone rings the bell.

Because a serviceperson won’t linger or circle back, you’ll have to call and make another appointment.

Delivery drivers won’t leave the package without a signature. Or they will leave it, increasing the risk that it will be swiped by porch pirates patrolling neighborhoods around the holiday season.

If you step away, if you get distracted, if you don’t hear the bell, you’re out of luck.

But what if these package deliverers and others had a way to unlock your door (legally and with your permission), set the package inside or do the repair, and then leave your house as secure as when they entered? And what if you could monitor the action via a video camera? And what if there were real-time notification to watch the delivery as it happens?

That’s the idea behind Amazon’s new Amazon Key service rolling out this month in Chicago and 36 other cities. Sounds great to those of us who’ve encountered the frustrations chronicled above. “Amazon Key gives customers peace of mind knowing their orders have been safely delivered to their homes and are waiting for them when they walk through their doors,” Peter Larsen, vice president of delivery technology for Amazon, says in a news release.

Well, maybe not for everyone. We imagine some people will balk at allowing any stranger into their homes while they’re away — even with the aforementioned video monitoring and real-time notification to watch the delivery as it happens. There’s still a stranger in your home while you’re not there. Amazon says its delivery people will be “thoroughly vetted.” But we all know that’s not a foolproof guarantee.

Still, we applaud Amazon for seeking to fill what we’ve always considered a huge, inexplicable void in the whole delivery biz. That is: Deliveries generally happen during the day, when many people aren’t home. Finding that door tag dangling and then being obliged to make the pilgrimage to a local delivery center is annoyingly inefficient. In the ideal world, delivery would take place when people are available. There shouldn’t be any guessing involved. If Fed Ex and its ilk can track a package every step of the way from Beijing, how come they don’t know that you’re not home?

We’ve waited for an innovative tech guru to one-up Fed Ex and UPS by offering exclusive nighttime service. Say, Fed Ex After Hours — from apres dinner to 10 p.m.? When people are home to sign for important packages.

Yes, we’d pay extra for that.

This isn’t so revolutionary. Many grocery delivery services already have night hours. People can order Thai food or pizza at all hours. Why not packages?

Speaking of innovation, even the sclerotic U.S. Postal Service plans to offer cheap next-day delivery service in 20 major U.S. cities on Sunday during this holiday season. Why? Because there’s overwhelming demand.

Amazon plans to eventually expand its keyless entry program so that others — from dog walkers to repairmen — can enter your home, do their jobs and leave. Walmart is testing a similar program that will allow drivers not just to deliver, but stash groceries in the refrigerator, if a customer requests.

A Florida company is thinking even bigger. Moon Express recently revealed a plan to start regular delivery service on the moon — as soon as there’s someone there to open the door. We like the company’s big ambition. The rest of us here on Earth still dream of the day we can get a package delivered after we get home from work.

By The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board

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