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Renters in America

Managing Deliveries Is Still an Unsolved Conundrum for Apartment Dwellers

Online shopping solves a lot of problems for consumers, but deliveries can be problematic for apartment residents.

E-commerce has revolutionized our daily lives. Consumers can order whatever they want, whenever they want it, without stepping outside their apartment, and returning packages is almost as easy. All that and free shipping makes ordering online an easy choice. That’s why we see more residents clicking to have everything from groceries and toiletries to furniture, mattresses, and even car tires delivered.

While this saves apartment residents time, money, and hassle, it creates a number of logistical challenges for apartment property managers, who are seeing an uptick in the amount of time they spend on package management. They are increasingly pulled away from other on-site responsibilities like facilitating move-ins and move-outs, showing apartments, and handling maintenance issues to deal with an influx of packages congesting mailroom areas and common spaces.

Self-service package solutions like lockers or dedicated package storage rooms can be a win-win solution for residents and property managers alike. Residents like knowing their packages are secure and the convenience of picking up their parcels when they want. Property managers appreciate having an integrated solution that makes package delivery and pick-up a snap.

However, even package lockers and rooms can be overwhelmed during times of heavy package volume. The latest NMHC-Kingsley Associates Package Delivery Report shows that only 38 percent of surveyed owners report that their package lockers can handle high-volume delivery periods. And those busy times may not just include the holiday season of November and December. Communities with students get an influx of student care packages from home during final exam periods. Communities with children can get a scary amount of Halloween costumes delivered in October. And then there’s Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and so on.

Moreover, some package lockers or package room solutions are unable to accommodate perishables or oversized or heavy items, so the majority of apartment communities still have delivery people dropping packages at the management office or lobby area. In response, some property managers refuse to accept packages, stating that they are housing providers, not package couriers. Others allow delivery people to drop packages at the resident’s door. While this is a popular solution for residents, there are some security concerns.

Still others are looking into alternative solutions like working with companies that provide off-site package warehousing or having delivery companies deliver packages to specified retail establishments for customer pick-up. Lockers are being installed at public transportation stops, grocery stores, and hardware stores and some ride-sharing companies are exploring adding package delivery to their services.

The delivery companies are also working with large online retailers for additional options. For example, Amazon Key allows couriers to access smart locks and deliver packages inside customer homes. Just last year, couriers started delivering packages to your car trunk after you unlocked it through your Amazon App.

While much of the attention related to packages has been on finding storage solutions and handling volume fluctuations, the issues are also piling up around how to effectively handle the subsequently discarded cardboard and plastic that bombards in-house trash and recycling areas post package delivery. The Package Delivery Survey reports that 41 percent of respondents said e-commerce has created a challenge for waste management in their community. (Special note to apartment residents here — please break down your boxes and help out your community managers!) At the same time, trash and recycling costs are climbing, adding pressure to property managers.

The package delivery conundrum is far from solved, but everyone in the logistical chain keeps seeking new ways to deal with the ever-increasing volume. A variety of delivery options are emerging as solutions, and there’s little doubt that that they will be put to the test sooner rather than later. With online sales representing roughly 12 percent of all retail sales, the likely growth in the number of packages coming our way is enormous. We will need to work together to find solutions that work for everyone from the courier, to the consumer, to the apartment manager currently buried behind that pile of post-holiday boxes over there.

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