A package room might be your last hope.

“No one’s here, it’s just UPS.”

“Did your thing arrive yet?”

“Check the front porch.”

-You, me, & everyone else

These are all comments that you can expect to hear uttered on the daily.  Can you even recall life before online shopping became the norm? I’m sure the memory is tucked in there somewhere, but it’s hidden behind all this joy of convenience. (Excuse me, while I grab some Amazon boxes piled up on my doorstep.) Arriving parcels, in general, is part of the growing conundrum many multifamily managers are facing in the ever-growing world of online shopping. Your extra-large, super-sized problem of packages piling up is why I’m here to help you today, because you can use the support, amiright?

I confess, I shop for toilet paper online

Shopping online is now such an integral part of our lives that to not use it as our knee-jerk response to need is nearly absurd! And yes, we’re still in the midst of the craziest period of our modern age, as we eagerly await the Covid-19 vaccine and a return to life as normal. The heightened stress created from the pandemic over physical distancing has forced us out of shops and into online stores. Thanks to the timely growth of e-commerce before the pandemic, the way we view shopping has changed, from the bottom of the supply chain, on up. Not just what we buy, but how we buy it. Everyday household items that before seemed like a silly thing to order online is now pretty much a normal Amazon purchase. Buying bulk items too. We’ve actually seen it. Panic buying, toilet paper hoarding, and other weird shopping practices have all created scarcity in stores. So, what was once kinda silly is now the norm. Many of us have been forced to eat a slice of humble pie while online shopping. Cleaning wipes? Yeah, add that to the cart, too.

But online buying was on the rise even before the pandemic. Holiday shopping, am I right? Observe if you will, those online retail spikes every November for the last decade. Not to mention that just about anything hard-to-find is no longer hard-to-find, thanks to powerful search engines, and plenty of vendors working happily to sell. Online shopping is thriving in explosive ways, folks. It’s only going to grow, and grow.

Make way for stuff!

So, stop telling us what we know, Karen. We know how to order. We know how the order process works, (thanks for the timelines, UPS!), but what about the last few legs of the journey before those boxes get opened…now that’s the real problem piling up. And I do mean literally piles. Piles of boxes, bags, and shipping cartons, duh. However, this kind of mail delivery isn’t joyful, like seeing boxes under the Christmas tree. It’s creating a real headache for many multifamily and apartment communities. 

If you’re an apartment community manager, you already know what I’m talking about. Where to put them? How to let folks know it’s arrived? Does it need a signature? And on and on and on. Your residents are feeling the crunch too. Stuff isn’t arriving as expected, or it’s getting lost. Maybe just misplaced? Who’s job is it to grab the delivery? You or me? These are the questions managers are facing nowadays. And if you’re a resident, you have a fair point –  if Amazon promises two-day delivery, then who wouldn’t be upset if their package arrives in two days, but then the package is either buried amongst others, or even lost due to a breakdown in delivery at the end. 

Is there any hope?

Of course! We are in the age of solutions. Every problem is fixable, for a price. Step right up folks, and see for yourself all of the amazing benefits and solutions available for your curious delights! (And whatever else is in those boxes.)

The solutions for multifamily properties fall into two categories: Onsite and offsite. Onsite package management is obvious. It’s delivered to your address, and it’s for you to deal with. If you didn’t already have infrastructure for packages before Covid-19, you probably have at least something in place by now. What does your onsite solution look like?

Onsite can look like anything really, depending on your property. Some properties offer residents a holding room off of the main lobby or reception area. Or perhaps it’s all held in a vacant room in a separate building within the complex. Maybe an add-on room was built just for this purpose. In any case, the onsite method means it’s delivered to the address of where your residents call home. However, having the space is just the beginning. If you’re new to the world of incoming packages, you’ll need some organizing help. Lucky for you, there’s now a whole new industry to pick from. Parcel Pending, Pitney Bowes, and SpaceSaver are just a few of the companies that offer pre-built lockers designed to neatly and securely hold resident deliveries. Picture a large cubby system off of a lobby or central main building or in a separate room, holding onto packages until residents can swing by. Amenities like lockers work if you’ve got the space to plant them. Other companies provide the tech tools to help you manage your existing package room space. Package Concierge, ButterflyMX, and Luxer One are a couple of companies that offer devices that you can mount to your wall, and allow entry into the locker room. Some companies even offer apps with alerts to let residents know when there’s an item waiting for them in the locker. Pretty spiffy!

Let’s dive into some chatter about offsite package holding. So, like the above option, offsite is also obvious. It’s not with you. It’s at a holding spot, or at an office, or a locker, or a separate room. And it then becomes the job of your resident to go and pick up their stuff. This option can have some pros and cons. Depending on your property, it might be the only way to keep everyone happy. And if your property uses offsite storage, expect it to be a full-disclosure item that will come up when discussing your property amenities with new applicants. 

When life gives you packages, make lockers

Amazon now offers Amazon Hub Lockers, where you can go and pick up your Prime items directly from Amazon. If this is the option your property has for your residents, you can also let them know that Amazon Hub Lockers are working to expand their operations, and will soon allow a few other companies to deliver to their lockers. 

Another offsite, (yet kinda also delivery) option is something like Fetch, where drivers deliver their items to a holding location, and Fetch drivers do the last legs of delivery. This type of service allows the resident to get notifications, and arrange for delivery or pick up of their items on their own time.

Offsite package storage as you might expect has some pros and cons that are worth considering. Every additional step that requires residents to get a package is a con. The inconvenience might be justified though if you’re in a particularly busy part of the city, or super limited on your space. But just know that it’s not a step that some residents will be willing to take. The pro, however, might just be that thing that saves your own sanity. Offsite packages mean you aren’t the one doing the managing, or delivery, or liability! If your primary job isn’t already taking care of packages, then you’ll get to actually, you know, work on your main responsibilities like a normal person. 

Show me the money…and the plan

Here’s where you come in. Managing the packages is definitely a conversation you need to be a part of, even if you aren’t the decision-maker. It’s important to gather all those company details yourself and present your best ideas possible to the big Kahuna, so you can help decide what solution is best for your property. Think of the benefits of both onsite and offsite options, what’s the most convenient for residents and staff alike, what works within the budget, and provides safety for all. Theft, the extra cost for labor, and traffic for delivery drivers are all options to consider as you attack your package plan.

The benefits of arming yourself with a plan though, are increased resident retention, and happiness and justice for all!! Or whatever. But you get the idea. Be prepared to meet the package delivery dilemma with plenty of thought and research, so you as the manager are helping your residents enjoy their community. Staying up on the latest information and trends with the delivery world is definitely a part of your job. Everyone from top to bottom will feel the effects of a well-thought-out package delivery process that serves your residents and the delivery persons also involved. Think about that the next time you’re shopping for toilet paper online.

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