Lobby crush: De­liv­er­ies pile up

On­line shop­ping’s avalanche buries apart­ment en­tries

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - MARYLAND - By Katherine Roth

“It’s a huge is­sue for a lot of apart­ment build­ings. There’s a se­cu­rity fac­tor, but also a con­ve­nience fac­tor.”

As on­line shop­ping be­comes ubiq­ui­tous, so do the boxes de­liv­ered to homes across the coun­try.

For apart­ment dwellers — and the man­agers of the build­ings they live in — it’s tough to man­age the boxes that pile up, some­times clog­ging pre­cious space for days. (If not watched, pack­ages also can be stolen or left out in the rain.)

The prob­lem’s only get­ting worse, says Rick Haughey, vice pres­i­dent of the non­profit Na­tional Mul­ti­fam­ily Hous­ing Coun­cil, which rep­re­sents many own­ers, de­vel­op­ers and man­agers of apart­ment hous­ing.

Peo­ple are or­der­ing more heavy, over­size and per­ish­able items than ever be­fore, he notes, and build­ing man­agers are “tasked with find­ing new and cre­ative ways to meet the de­mand for pack­age stor­age, sort­ing and se­cu­rity.”

The prob­lem is es­pe­cially acute around the hol­i­days, but con­tin­ues all year.

“Now, you’ve got a lot of per­ish­ables com­ing in. And things like tires can be or­dered on­line at dis­count prices. That means four tires are sit­ting in the leas­ing of­fice, along with items like flat-pack fur­ni­ture and even bed mat­tresses,” Haughey says. “They might be there for days or po­ten­tially weeks if you’re away on va­ca­tion. There doesn’t seem to be per­fect so­lu­tion, but locker systems and de­liv­ery hubs come close.”

There are a grow­ing num­ber of tech­nolo­gies and ser­vices aimed at al­le­vi­at­ing the de­liv­ery prob­lem in apart­ment foy­ers.

UPS, FedEx and Ama­zon all have be­gun of­fer­ing ser­vices to help man­age the flow of de­liv­ery boxes. The Ama­zon Hub pro­gram, for ex­am­ple, in­cludes Ama­zon Locker, based at third-party lo­ca­tions like Whole Foods; Locker+, with staffed lo­ca­tions for pick­ups and drop-offs; and Apart­ment Locker, which ac­cepts Ama­zon and nonA­ma­zon pack­ages in apart­ment build­ings, among other ser­vices.

Luxer One, a com­pany based in Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia, pro­vides se­cure lock­ers in build­ings in the United States and Canada that can be ac­cessed by both de­liv­ery com­pa­nies and res­i­dents — in­clud­ing com­part­ments for very large boxes and re­frig­er­ated lock­ers for per­ish­ables. The lock­ers can be placed in­side or out­side apart­ment build­ings, and are ac­ces­si­ble us­ing codes.

“It’s a huge is­sue for a lot of apart­ment build­ings. There’s a se­cu­rity fac­tor, but also a con­ve­nience fac­tor. Build­ing man­age­ment of­fices aren’t open as late as some res­i­dents need them to be in or­der to re­trieve pack­ages, and in some cases, just ac­cept­ing a build­ing’s pack­ages can eas­ily be­come a full-time job,” says Melody Akhtari, spokes­woman for Luxer One, which started out in 2005 with lock­ers in apart­ment build­ings

— Melody Akhtari, spokes­woman for Luxer One, which started out in 2005 with lock­ers in apart­ment build­ings for dry clean­ing

for dry clean­ing.

“A cou­ple years in, a few build­ings asked us if we could do some­thing to help with all the boxes that were be­ing de­liv­ered. In 2013, we launched across the United States and Canada, and our lock­ers are now in over 3,500 lo­ca­tions,” she says.

Along with smart lock­ers, there are ser­vices that ar­range de­liv­er­ies for a spe­cific time when res­i­dents know they’ll be home; or let re­cip­i­ents have pack­ages de­liv­ered to se­cure hubs or other lo­ca­tions that are con­ve­niently lo­cated and open late.

“The chal­lenge is that in an apart­ment build­ing with, say, 400 units, you have FedEx, UPS and USPS all stop­ping by at mul­ti­ple times of the day to make de­liv­er­ies. And these are not just small stan­dard pack­ages,” says Akhtari.

But such locker systems can be pricey, and in build­ings with­out them, res­i­dents can use ser­vices of­fered ei­ther by the ship­per or by some re­tail­ers. Jet.com, for ex­am­ple, which is owned by Wal­mart, has in­stalled lock­ers in hun­dreds of New York apart­ment build­ings.

There’s also a ser­vice called Fetch (fetch­pack­age.com), which col­lects pack­ages, stores them off-site and de­liv­ers them when the re­cip­i­ent is home, tak­ing the bur­den off build­ing man­agers.

In some cases, build­ings have con­verted space into pack­age stor­age rooms and hired ad­di­tional staff to deal with de­liv­er­ies. In other cases, they have de­cided not to ac­cept pack­ages at all, so res­i­dents must rely on one of the out­side ser­vices.

“Man­ag­ing de­liv­er­ies can be es­pe­cially chal­leng­ing in high pack­age volume mar­kets like New York, Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and Chicago,” says John Falco, prin­ci­pal at Kings­ley As­so­ciates which, with the Na­tional Mul­ti­fam­ily Hous­ing Coun­cil, pub­lished a re­port on the is­sue. “In high­er­den­sity, ur­ban ar­eas, space is of­ten at a pre­mium, so pack­age stor­age so­lu­tions are im­por­tant.”

And the chal­lenge doesn’t end at de­liv­ery and stor­age. Once the boxes are opened, some are shipped back as re­turns, while oth­ers cre­ate a trash or re­cy­cling headache.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, is­sued in Novem­ber 2018, over 40 per­cent of re­spon­dents said the large vol­umes of card­board and pack­ag­ing ma­te­ri­als be­ing dis­posed of have cre­ated a waste man­age­ment chal­lenge.

LUXER ONE/AP

Luxer One pro­vides se­cure lock­ers in build­ings in the United States and Canada that can be ac­cessed by both de­liv­ery com­pa­nies and res­i­dents.

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