This post was created in partnership with Skybell
In a perfect world, you’d brave the mall (and miraculously find everything you need on the shelves) this holiday season. But retail isn’t what it used to be and, quite frankly, you’re busy. Shopping online and having gifts delivered straight to your door offers convenience you can’t put a price on, but if the packages are stolen off your front porch (as they have been from mine), all the convenience goes out the window.
According to recent reports, a whopping 11 million Americans had packages stolen straight off their doorstep last year. So-called “porch pirates” will often trail behind delivery trucks, then brazenly walk up to your front door and grab what’s been left.
In addition to that, according to Shorr, a packaging products service, 35 percent have chosen to have their packages shipped to a different address (like their business or a neighbor’s house) simply to avoid the risk of having them stolen from their stoop. But here’s an even scarier stat: 41 percent have skipped shopping for certain items online altogether just because it’s not worth the hassle of tracking down shipments gone missing.
It’s 2018. Shopping online needs to feel a lot less risky, so here are some solutions:
Pick it up in store
If you do shop online, it never hurts to use the “pick up in store” feature at checkout if you can. Yes, you still have to make the trip, but at least the item you ordered is guaranteed to be there, not to mention you can collect it on your own time, staying in a safe place until you’re ready to grab it.
Use a locker
We all shop a ton on Amazon— according to a recent study, Amazon purchases account for 43 percent of online purchases in the US (that’s an insane number!). So no surprise that they’ve been on the front lines helping people avoid theft: Amazon Lockers are located all over the country, and make it easy for you to pick up packages with a locker number and code that unlocks the door. Slightly less convenient than rolling outside in your PJs, but a lot safer (check if your package qualifies for a locker here, and find lockers near you here).
Get a video doorbell
A video doorbell like Skybell is a fabulous line of defense against package theft. The WiFi-enabled video doorbell ($199) is easy to install. (You actually just swap it out with your existing doorbell, then download the free app that pairs with your device to start the setup process.) Then, when someone—say Fed Ex—arrives at your door, you’ll automatically get an alert on your smartphone with a link to a live video feed. From there, you can use two-way communication to interact by voice with the person on the other side of your door from wherever you happen to be at the time. (Think home, work, running errands, etc.). If you’re not going to be home for a bit, you can ask him to hide the packages in your side yard so they’re not a sitting target. And while this is just my opinion, I suspect that watching the delivery man have a conversation with the homeowner might be enough to make a thief unsure of whether or not to proceed to your front door.
Here’s where it gets interesting: Say, the visitor on the other side of your door doesn’t ring the doorbell (aka they’re snooping around to see what packages they might be able to swipe). Skybell comes to the rescue with a motion sensor that detects movement and pings you even without a doorbell ring, so you can shout and yell at the unwelcome person on your porch. (Sometimes that’s all it takes to get them to bolt and leave your packages behind.)
If that doesn’t work and the thief successfully makes off with your precious holiday cargo, Skybell gives you the option to record video footage and play back videos later if something is stolen, so you have a way to identify the person to police. (It doesn’t hurt that the device comes with 1080p HD video quality—complete with 5X zoom—so the chances are good that you’ll be able to catch a clear glimpse of the culprit’s face.) There’s even color night vision, so you can keep an eye on your porch—and any visitors—at night.
Other benefits of this video doorbell that go beyond package theft: Silent mode. Say, you’re a mom with a sleeping baby. When someone rings the doorbell, you hear the cries that signal the early end of naptime. (The worst.) Skybell’s silent mode allows you to mute the indoor chime, so that you still get an alert on your smartphone, but one that doesn’t disrupt the baby. WHERE WAS THIS WHEN MY KIDS WERE TINY AND NAPPING?! You can also set up the app so that there are multiple users. That way, you don’t have to worry about missing a delivery alert if you’re in a meeting— someone else in your family can cover. And if you just want to keep general tabs on your doorstep, you can start a live video feed with a tap of a button within the app. Panic averted.
Customize your delivery
UPS and USPS allow you to specify where your packages should be left— perhaps a side door is a bit more secure than your front door? You can even specify that your packages be left with a neighbor if you know that you definitely won’t be home to get your packages in a timely manner.
Use a package tracker
Use a package tracker like Slice. The app automatically syncs with your email Inbox to pick up tracking numbers whenever you shop and sends you delivery updates so you know when items are in transit and when they’ve arrived.
Package theft is a serious issue, and no one wants time or money wasting hassles during the holidays, or at any time during the year. With the right technology, and some smarts, you can avert disaster and get things delivered and under the tree without a hitch.