Last week I went into a US Post Office for the first time in a very long time. Maybe it was the location, downtown San Francisco. Maybe it was the season, Thanksgiving week. Perhaps it was just the time of day, around 1pm, when nearby workers are on a lunch break. No matter the cause, the line was almost out the door, with at least 20 people waiting at any given time. Two clerks were serving customers and some customers took more than a few minutes to serve. The result was many irate customers and less than cordial clerks.
A few days later, our local news reported on “porch pirates,” those pesky looters that follow delivery trucks and pick up packages before their owners can take them inside. With the holiday shopping season in full swing, and packages bought online arriving on doorsteps around the country, it makes sense that package thefts are on the rise. The recipients are at a disadvantage because home delivery services like UPS, FedEx and the Post Office can only commit to delivery on a certain date, not during a few hour window. As an aside, Google Express does commit to a 4-hour window and generally sticks to it but somehow, even with all of the technology at their fingertips, this is something that the other shippers cannot currently provide.
Of the two, I like Swapbox more with its smart kiosks solution. Currently spread out in places like laundromats, convenience stores and cafes around San Francisco, the kiosks enable secure holding of packages until they can be picked up. They hold the packages for up to 72 hours but that can be extended if necessary. This service is similar to Amazon’s Locker service (which is more widespread) but allows customers to receive packages from any online retailer. Where I think Swapbox has a winning proposition is for shipping larger items. Their kiosks allow drop off of unpackaged items with the promise that Swapbox will take care of everything else. Their challenge, of course, will be to place their kiosks at more locations and expand to more cities.
Shyp works differently and only for shippers. Users don’t even need to leave the house in order to ship an item. Instead, via an app (which is iOS only at this time) users take a picture of the item to be shipped, enter their address (also currently only in San Francisco) and the recipient’s address, and that’s it. Super easy. It doesn’t solve the “porch pirates” problem but it does a great job at making shipping much easier.
I like that both of these companies identified a need and created completely different products to address it. Next time I need to ship something I’d much rather use their services than stand in line at the Post Office.
Now, if someone could also disrupt Passport renewals and all the other services the Post Office provides, that would be wonderful!