The most disturbing thing of online shopping in the United States: stealing packages is rampant

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Sina Technology Zheng Jun from Silicon Valley
1.7 million packages lost every day
Since the installation of Amazon smart doorbell ring, life has become more and more insecure. Because ring sends several community related tweets every day to remind me that there are new public security cases in the North San Jose area of Silicon Valley where I live: smashing cars, entering houses, stealing cars, and so on. One of the most popular push cases is package theft. Almost every day, nearby residents upload similar videos in the ring community: strangers with masks sneak up to their doors, pick up packages or emails and run. Even if there is a surveillance video to capture the thief, householders can do nothing.
In fact, North San Jose is not a place with poor security in Silicon Valley. There are few violent crimes here, and car window smashing and theft are far less than those in downtown San Francisco. The San Francisco Bay area is not a place with poor security in the United States. However, the problem of stolen packages has almost become a norm that bay area residents have to accept and become a part of their online shopping experience. It doesn’t make sense to call the police. They just ask you to fill out a report form. They don’t even have the energy to go out to the police to check small cases like stealing packages.
The economic halt and public control brought by COVID-19 made American entity retailers plunge into a harsh winter, and a large number of physical retailers were in bankruptcy. Meanwhile, it also gave us a good opportunity to accelerate the growth of Internet sales. The U.S. Department of Commerce has not released official statistics for 2020. However, according to the prediction of digital common360, a market research company, in 2020, the sales of online shopping in the United States may soar by 40.3% year on year to reach US $839 billion, accounting for 21% of physical retail sales. To make a simple comparison, according to the data of China’s Ministry of Commerce, in 2020, China’s online retail sales totaled 11.76 trillion yuan, and the online retail sales of physical goods totaled 9.76 trillion yuan (equivalent to 1.51 trillion US dollars), a year-on-year increase of 14.8%, accounting for nearly a quarter of the total retail sales.
However, the biggest problem affecting the e-commerce experience in the United States today may not be slow logistics or after-sales, but increasingly rampant package theft. A survey released by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a private university of New York, estimates that 1.7 million packages are stolen, lost or sent wrongly every day in the United States in 2019, with direct financial losses and labor costs exceeding $25 million. In New York City alone, 90000 packages are lost every day (the total number of packages posted in New York City is 1.5 million per day), 20% more than four years ago. The conclusion of the investigation is even more discouraging. “The thieves who steal packages are more and more unscrupulous, stealing more and more packages.”
Several similar investigations have also confirmed how serious the problem of parcel theft is in the United States. According to a survey by C + R research, one in three U.S. online shoppers has lost a package. What’s more heartbreaking for the e-commerce industry is that as many as 42% of the respondents said they were reluctant to buy expensive goods online because they were worried about package loss. This means that package theft not only causes direct economic losses to e-commerce platforms, but also makes them lose more potential revenue and profit space.
California’s worst hit area for stolen packages
Why are so many packages stolen in the United States? In addition to the extra valuables that need to be signed in, most of the packages purchased online in the United States are directly put at the door by the courier, who takes a photo to prove that they have been delivered and left. Consumers will then be informed. But whether or not to receive the packages is another matter, because many thieves have also focused on the packages placed at the door. Most of the people who steal parcels are passers-by, but some of them are brave enough to follow the express truck, deliver them all the way in front and steal them all the way back.
Where is the easiest package to steal in America? According to a survey released last year by Wakefield research, a market research company, package theft usually occurs in urban areas. In 2018, 34% of urban residents said they had lost their packages. In suburban and rural areas, only 20% and 13% of respondents lost their packages. It’s also easy to understand that the suburbs and rural areas are sparsely populated, the residents live in scattered areas, the flow of people is relatively simple, and few people will wander on the road.
The San Francisco Bay area, where Silicon Valley is located, is “honored” to be the area with the most serious package theft problem in the United States, with several metropolitan areas ranking second to sixth: Salt Lake City, Utah, Portland, Oregon, Baltimore, Seattle and Chicago. It’s embarrassing that California has three regions, San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles area and Sacramento Area, which are in the top ten of the list of package loss in the United States.
So why is package theft so rampant in California? On the one hand, it may be that most California residents live in townhouses or detached houses, and packages are usually placed directly at the door, which can be seen at a glance on the road, making it easier for passers-by to take advantage of them; on the other hand, due to the overcrowding of California prisons, California passed prop in 2014 Bill 47 treats theft of property below $950 as a misdemeanor, and the police don’t have much energy to deal with small cases such as package theft. Those who smash cars and steal packages are rarely caught, and they are even more fearless.
Surprisingly, New York, the most populous metropolis in the United States, did not make it into the top 10 of the “package loss list”. According to Jessie, a “new Yorker” who has lived in Manhattan for more than ten years, most of the apartments in Manhattan have porters to sign and keep parcels on behalf of them, which is not easy to be stolen. For those ordinary apartments without gatekeepers, the deliveryman would not leave the package directly at the door like the bay area because of security concerns, and would stick a note for the signer to pick it up by himself. Of course, the package loss problem in New York City is still serious, but on the whole, Manhattan is safer than silicon valley.

In fact, the thieves don’t know what kind of package they are stealing. They just take everything they can and even feel like “opening the blind box”. Zhou you, founder and CEO of yami.com, the largest Chinese e-commerce platform in the United States, introduced Sina Technology. Their platform also often encounters the situation that consumers report package loss. “Basically, the thief saw all the packages at his fingertips, and he didn’t just stare at our packages.” According to the latest data, nearly 100 packages are lost every week, but their overall package loss rate is only about half a percentage point.
The seller has no choice but to bear the loss
So, what should we do if the package is stolen? According to the survey conducted by Wakefield research, the first thing most Americans think about when they find a package stolen is not to call the police, but to contact the platform or the seller immediately. In most cases, American consumers don’t have to worry about the loss, because there are sellers to bear the loss. Amazon and big sellers usually refund or resend customers directly. Zhouyou of yami.com said that after users report package loss, they will choose to refund first, and then recommend users to call the police, because retaining users is more important than package loss.
The person in charge of the operation of Synco, a wireless microphone brand that sells cameras on Amazon, disclosed to Sina technology that when consumers reported that the package was lost, they usually refund it first and then communicate with Amazon. “Compared with tens or hundreds of dollars in product refunds, we are more worried that buyers will give us bad reviews because they can’t receive the goods. If they give bad comments or complaints, our sellers will lose more. To sell in Amazon, it’s very important to have a good reputation. ” Synco currently has more than 20 microphone products on Amazon Prime platform, and the user evaluation is more than four stars.
The goods are sold through Amazon Prime, and the logistics is delivered to the door, but they are taken away by thieves. Why should the seller bear the loss? Synco’s head of operations said that according to Amazon’s rules, consumers with stolen packages should provide proof of their orders to claim compensation from Amazon, but sellers can’t do anything about it. If consumers are too lazy to go through these processes, sellers will have to bear the loss silently. After all, they will continue to sell on Amazon platform.
Another seller of electronic accessories on eBay told Sina technology that when big sellers buy UPS or Fedex logistics services, they usually choose express delivery loss insurance based on the value of goods. But they will also compensate customers first, and then claim with the logistics company. “It’s one thing whether we can make up for the loss. The sellers are very counseling and care more about the user’s evaluation.”
But is it the seller who ultimately pays for the stolen package? Lori Torres, founder of the US start-up company parcel pending, doesn’t think so. “Businesses will eventually transfer these extra costs to commodity prices, or consumers will bear the losses for package thieves. Amazon allocates $9 billion a year for package loss and return claims. Who will these costs eventually go to? ” The start-up company provides a third-party package pick-up network service (currently more than 4000 pick-up points), providing a safe package pick-up service for consumers shopping on e-commerce websites.
Spoofing thieves to become Internet Celebrities
Even with the help of e-commerce platforms, the serious problem of package theft has also cast a psychological shadow on American consumers, which makes e-commerce platforms have to try their best to maintain the security of packages. It seems that consumers and e-commerce platforms have reached some consensus, and they do not have much hope for the improvement of law and order by the US police. After all, it is not easy for the police to reduce the vicious crimes in the metropolitan areas of the United States, and it is difficult for them to have the strength and energy to pay attention to theft. Package theft is usually classified as larceny rather than statistics.
From the perspective of consumers, it seems that it is not very professional to sign packages with the company’s address. Some enterprises have explicitly asked employees not to deliver online shopping products to the company. However, if you can’t sign at home during the day and are worried about package theft, the most effective anti-theft measure is to register self-service in UPS, FedEx, USPS and other express logistics networks in advance, and require logistics express to keep packages waiting for self collection. According to UPS, mychoice has 63 million users. There are 21 million users of USPS’s customer service.
As the largest e-commerce giant in the United States, Amazon’s main way to deal with package theft is to continuously increase the number of package pick-up online stores. Now Amazon has set up hub lockers in more than 900 cities in the United States. After the package arrives at the pick-up counter, the consumer will receive a notice and a barcode for opening the counter to pick up. In addition, Amazon also cooperates with some physical retailers such as GNC to let consumers collect Amazon packages from these retailers near their homes.
In addition, Amazon has also launched the Amazon key service. Through the compatible Amazon camera and intelligent door lock, the owner can open the door through remote control and video monitoring, so that the courier can put the package in the house or garage. But obviously, this kind of service can’t get the trust of ordinary users. According to a survey conducted by C + R research last year, only 4% of the respondents are willing to let unfamiliar express delivery personnel into their homes.
For package thieves, Silicon Valley it men also have their own solutions. Mark Rober, an apple engineer who lives in San Francisco, decided to solve the problem on his own in a fury because the package had been stolen many times. The it man made a prank “bomb” disguised as a package, in which he put a mobile phone to locate and shoot videos, and used flash powder as an explosive. When the thief took away the fake package placed at the door of Rob’s house, Roberton tracked the thief’s whereabouts in real time through his mobile phone, and also remotely photographed the thief’s appearance through the mobile phone camera in the fake package.

When the thief opened the package, rob detonated the “bomb” remotely. The scattered flash powder and alarm sound made the young thief sit on the ground. Obviously, this is just a prank, and can not really solve the problem of package loss. But rob became an Internet celebrity and was interviewed by the famous American host, Jimmy Kimmel. Rob quit his job at Apple and became a full-time video blogger. In the past two years, rob has been improving his prank “package” to keep more package thieves in mind. Recently, a spoof video about package thieves has been online for more than 28 million times in a month.
However, the ultimate solution to the problem of package theft may still depend on law enforcement. Some Republican dominated conservative states are enacting laws to increase penalties for parcel theft. Texas passed a new law HB 37 on mail package theft in 2019, which stipulates that stealing 10 packages is a felony, with a maximum sentence of 10 years and a maximum fine of $10000. South Carolina has also enacted a new “defense against porch pirates act”, which treats package theft as a felony. However, in California, where prisons are full, it is unrealistic to expect the government and police to crack down on petty thieves. Perhaps, to bear the loss of package theft is also the additional cost for e-commerce enterprises to operate in California.