Fifteen years ago, accepting a package on behalf of residents only took the property manager a few minutes to handle and deliver.
Yet, as e-commerce has grown exponentially with Americans spending $300 billion with online retailers in 2013, a few minutes has turned into nearly two hours a day at some communities.
With 84 percent of Americans shopping online some or most of the time, and nearly 20 percent doing so at least once or twice a week, this glut of packages is becoming a problem. They clog up concierge desks and leasing offices. Residents constantly contact the leasing office to ask if a package has arrived, and if a package gets misplaced in the process, there is no way of tracking it. These challenges are only going to get worse as online shopping is expected to increase by 25 percent over the next year.
Package tracking and notification systems have been a recent solution, allowing property managers to electronically check-in an item, manage inventory, and automatically notify residents via text or email that their package is in the office. The automatic notifications solve the "pre-call" problems and helps packages leave the office more quickly. The electronic system also reduces the amount of time managers are spending on sorting the packages, but ultimately it still leaves them with an additional task to handle that could get worse as online shopping increases.
Electronic Package Lockers
delivery room or holding area is the second most popular apartment amenity
after fitness centers, according to a NMHC and Kingsley Associates survey. Residents want their packages promptly and securely, which
these electronic lockers are attempting to provide.
Third-party electronic package lockers are similar to the Amazon lockers and USPS’s new gopost system. Whereas Amazon lockers and gopost are most often placed in public areas such as grocery stores or train stations, the lockers can also be placed in common areas of multifamily properties where residents can access them at any time. The lockers also accept every package from all mail carriers, unlike the Amazon lockers or the USPS gopost.
And these lockers may essentially weed properties out of the package business altogether.
How does it work? Residents register with the locker company at move-in, and when they order a package online, it's shipped to their regular mailing address. Delivery carriers scan and place packages directly into the locker compartments. The lockers then automatically notify residents when their package has arrived.
Property managers are only involved if a package is too large for the compartments. But if residents have a problem, they contact the locker companies directly to resolve them.
“These aren’t just gym lockers. These are very robust electronic systems. They need to be looked at and considered as a permanent aspect of the property,” says Georgianna Oliver, CEO and co-founder of Package Concierge, one of the first package locker companies, with clients such as Greystar, Gables Residential, Riverstone Residential Group, AvalonBay Communities and Bozzuto.
The Bells and Whistles
Package Concierge uses both a key fob and PIN code for access, but properties can choose if they want to use either one or both for added security. It also uses cameras for added security and packages are made available for return if not picked up within seven days.
Parcel Pending, another package locker company currently working with clients such as Shea Properties, Winn Residential and Irvine Company, uses PIN codes individual to each package, which are emailed or texted to the resident with a notification. According to Lori Torres, the CEO and Founder of Parcel Pending who previously worked for the Irvine Company, the individual package PINs aid package tracking. The systems are also equipped with security cameras and allow for the seven-day return period.
Another locker company, Luxer One, also uses the individual package PINs. Luxer One’s CEO Arik Levy, who also operates Laundry Locker, says this mainly facilitates the locker use in corporate housing where there is a lot of resident turnover. The system is equipped with security cameras and can accept signatures for packages that need one. It also has a ‘house’ account that a manager can access, which is most useful for residents who are not yet registered or if a name is misprinted on the package. The manager can either reroute the package to a resident or send it back. Luxer One also acknowledges the seven-day return period.
For Package Concierge, systems are available starting at $20,000 for a 34-compartment system, which can be scaled up to a 102-compartment system for an incremental charge, since the main expense is in the kiosk technology. For a 100-unit property, Package Concierge recommends either a 34- or 54-compartment system, and for a 200-unit property, it recommends a 70- or 82-compartment system. There is an additional monthly service fee, which is quoted at $2 per unit but is negotiable, and covers 24/7 tech support and maintenance.
At Parcel Pending, a 13-compartment base system costs $6,980. Additional towers can be added to the base at $2,180 each. According to Torres, the average Parcel Pending locker system costs around $14,000. Torres recommends one locker for every four units using the system, assuming the mail carrier attempts to deliver to the residents’ doors first. The monthly service fee ranges from $2.50 to $5.50 depending on the number of compartments and tech support.
Similarly, Luxer One charges $6,900 for a 14-compartment base system. Levy says determining the number of compartments per building isn’t a simple ratio since every buildings’ demographic is different. He suggests monitoring package volume and then accounting for growth to determine system size. The monthly service fee is $1.50 per compartment for comprehensive support including customer, software, and hardware.
Each system can charge fees on behalf of the property. For example, properties can charge a one-time fee for registration at move-in. They can also charge for storage if a resident doesn’t pick up the package after a certain amount of days, which is more common during the holidays when package volume can double or triple. Parcel Pending is the only company that has a required $15 resident registration fee, of which 25 percent is given to the property, but properties can charge an additional amount.