April 2019

I’ve been getting curious lately about some of the stuff that Amazon seems to be doing around package delivery. Like many people, I’m an Amazon Prime customer and I order a bunch of stuff from them. Generally, they’ve been using the US Postal Service for Prime deliveries (at least for me), which has always worked out fine. But lately, they seem to be doing more deliveries themselves. They seem to be setting up an interesting system for that, but they clearly haven’t worked out all the kinks yet.

I ordered a few small items on Friday of last week, and would have been fine with the usual two-day shipping, or even longer. I didn’t have an immediate need for any of the stuff I ordered. But they said the stuff would be delivered on Saturday. So, hey, one-day shipping. Cool.

The package didn’t show up with my normal mail on Saturday, but at some point Saturday evening, I got a notification on my phone that the package was “nine stops away” (or something like that), and gave me an estimated delivery time, and even the ability to see where the delivery driver was on a map. That last part was a little creepy, but OK. Anyway, about an hour later, I got a notification that the package had been delivered. So I went downstairs and looked for it, but it wasn’t there. Kind of weird to have such specific information about the driver’s route and the delivery time, but no actual package.

I checked to see what I was supposed to do to report a missing package, and they ask you to wait 36 hours before doing so. That kind of makes sense, if they’ve handed the package off to USPS, but if they’re delivering it themselves, and they’re apparently tracking the driver in real-time, that doesn’t make much sense. But I waited, and reported it missing on Monday night. They were cool about it, and refunded one of the items and sent me a replacement delivery for the other two.

So, guess what? Now it’s Tuesday, and the original package from Saturday shows up. Again, with the excessive level of tracking detail, where I can follow the driver around and all that. And this time, when the package is delivered, I also get a photo of it, sitting in the foyer of my apartment building.

And, of course, I also get the replacement package today too. Also from an Amazon delivery driver, with a photo of the package in the foyer. Though this one seems to be from a different driver, since it arrived a few hours after the first one. I guess this is good for me, since I now have extra stuff that I didn’t pay for. All things considered though, I’d rather have just gotten the original package in with my mail on Monday, without all this extra nonsense.

So it seems like they’re tracking their drivers all over the place, making them take photos of delivered packages, and also making them take photos of themselves now. Yet somehow, a package can still disappear into a black hole for three days. I don’t know, I can’t decide if this is a utopia or a dystopia we’re headed towards. (Maybe a little of both.)

Here’s an article from Vox, talking about the economics of Amazon’s two-day shipping. It’s pretty interesting. It’s also interesting to think about Amazon’s carbon footprint. They’re so big now, they can probably have a meaningful affect on that just by making small changes. (Though it can’t possibly be efficient for them to have two different drivers deliver something to my apartment building on the same day, just a few hours apart, can it?) I’m also kind of curious about the new Amazon Day thing, where you can choose to get all your packages on a specific day of the week. That could help cut down on excess packaging and multiple deliveries, so that’s a good thing.

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