Yes, the term and the phenomenon were originally American but are now current over here too, and escalating fast. Some reports suggest that doorstep parcel theft has jumped 500% in the past four years. In the year to August 2023, there were apparently 16,421 reports of parcel theft in the UK, up from 2,700 for the same period four years ago. And that’s only the ones that are reported. The UK is well ahead of other European countries for online shopping, which of course increases the opportunity for opportunistic looting.
In America, doorstep delivery delinquency has also been growing; it probably started there anyway. One survey estimates that 210 million packages were stolen across America in 2021. Eight states in the USA have recently passed laws increasing the penalties for package theft from a misdemeanour to a felony.
These figures are lifted from an article in this weekend’s Financial Times. It goes on to claim that UK courier companies and retailers are making a great effort to ensure packages end up in the right hands. Personally we are not yet sure this is as true as we might wish. We’ve all been aware that some couriers just drop on the doorstep and run without trying to ensure that there is anyone at home to receive the parcel. Some delivery firms, including Royal Mail, do offer a “safe place” delivery option but this isn’t always observed.
The article also notes that, just as shoplifting as a whole has substantially risen, the cost of living crisis has also increased the market for stolen goods from people’s doorsteps – as we’ve observed locally. Though one could add that the police here are convinced that much of the shoplifting and theft has to do with the increasing level of drug trafficking rather than food poverty.
Not surprisingly Harry Wallop, the writer of this article and a freelance writer on consumer affairs, does not come up with any stunning solution. But he notes that there is an increasing trend – a hybrid solution as he calls it – to order goods online and then go for the “click and collect” pickup option. Well, yes, I think many of us have learned this the hard way. This is in some ways inconvenient but usually guarantees safer delivery.
Here in Herne Hill, many (but not all) Amazon deliveries can be diverted either to the post office on Norwood Road or to a rather un-prepossessing but efficient convenience store, Omsakthi Food & Wine, at 16 Milkwood Road. The routine differs from place to place. In the post office when you have shown your barcode, it’s the job of the poor overworked employee behind her/his glass screen to rummage around in the hundreds of parcels to find yours. In the convenience store, on the other hand, once you’re signed in with your barcode, it’s your job to plunge into the large boxes in the shop to find your parcel which you then present to the shopkeeper who scans it and then allows you to take it away: the boxes themselves are unsecured so an ingenious thief could theoretically snatch one up and smuggle it out of the shop.
Many of us will be tempted to use these options more frequently. Of the two, the convenience store has some advantages since the post office – particularly at this time of the year – often requires a lengthy queue before getting to the counter. Other carriers, e.g. UPS, can divert to other pickup spots, for example Marie Russell, the newsagents on Half Moon Lane.