NEW YORK (AP) – Amazon tired of ringing the door.
The online shopping giant is nudging homeowners across the country – sometimes with financial incentives – to give their drivers the ability to open their apartment doors on their own using a mobile device.
The service, dubbed “the key to business,” is marketed as a way to reduce the number of stolen packages by making it easy to leave them in the lobby rather than outside. Amazon wins because it allows delivery workers to move faster. And fewer packages stolen reduces costs and can give Amazon an edge over the competition.
Those who installed the device say it reduces constant noise from couriers and is a safer alternative to issuing codes to multiple couriers.
But Amazon’s program, which was first announced in 2018, could raise security and privacy concerns as it gains traction. The company said it is conducting background checks on the shippers and that they can only open the doors when they have a package to scan. But tenants may not be aware that Amazon drivers have access to their front doors, as Amazon leaves it up to the building to notify them.
Ashkan Soltani, a privacy researcher who was a senior technical advisor to former President Barack Obama, said any device connected to the Internet could be hacked, including an Amazon device, and attackers could try to open doors.
“Basically, you are injecting a foreign Internet-connected device into the internal network,” said Soltani, who was also a former chief technologist at the US Federal Trade Commission.
Amazon did not respond to questions about a possible hack.
The company has already installed the device in thousands of apartment buildings in the United States, but declined to give a specific number. This sometimes leaves a clue by placing a round Amazon smile logo sticker on the buzzers where the device was installed. On one of the streets of New York, the sticker was on three of 11 buildings. In another area, the sticker was on two of the seven buildings.
Amazon sellers traveled to cities across the country to knock on doors, make phone calls, or approach building managers on the street to convince them to install the device. The company even partnered with local locksmiths to nudge building managers into repairing locks. Amazon installs the device for free and occasionally tosses a $ 100 Amazon gift card to whoever lets them in.
Soltani said he learned about Key for Business when he was approached by two Amazon sellers in April who wanted access to the building he lives in in Oakland, California. The building administration refused and no device was installed.
Amazon had better luck with Kenton Girard. Chicago-based homeowner Girard agreed to install the device in four of his buildings to reduce the number of thefts, which were becoming so serious that he considered building a parcel box on the street.
“I would pay for this,” Girard said of the Amazon device.
Currently, only the US Postal Service has the ability to enter apartment buildings to get to the mailboxes. UPS says it has tested a way for its workers to enter buildings without causing noise from tenants by teaming up with a smart lock company in 2018. But this test ended and UPS refused to say why. The company says shoppers can instead deliver their packages to nearby grocery stores, dry cleaners, or florists if they are not at home.
FedEx declined to comment for this story.
Amazon has wanted to walk through people’s front doors for years. In 2017, he allowed shoppers to allow delivery people to come to their homes when they weren’t around and leave packages in the lobby. Walmart did the same shortly thereafter, but the delivery staff also filled the refrigerator with groceries. Amazon and Walmart do not say how many people use these services, but they have recently expanded their reach to more cities.
In 2018, Amazon targeted apartment buildings by launching a key to business and signing major landlords to install the device in their developments. But that push seems to have accelerated over the past year as Amazon deployed sales teams across the country. Recent job postings in Miami and San Antonio say Amazon sellers can earn between $ 3,000 and $ 11,000 a month in bonuses and commissions. Amazon doesn’t say how much it spends on the effort.
Not all Amazon packages can be walked through the front doors. According to Rakuten Intelligence, a purchase data firm, the company itself delivers about 60% of its packages; the rest comes through other delivery services that can’t get in.
Philip T. Evers, professor of logistics at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, said Amazon’s desire to place the device in as many buildings as possible could be a way to keep competitors out.
“The landlord might say, ‘You know, I’ll do this for one company, but maybe we don’t want it to be for every delivery company,” he said. He added that Amazon could find other uses for the service, such as for the delivery people to pick up returns left in the lobby, rather than forcing shoppers to trudge to the post office. Amazon declined to share any future plans.
Jason Goldberg, director of commercial strategy for marketing company Publicis Communications, said the device could save Amazon money as workers can drop more packages during a shift and may have to offer fewer refunds to those whose packages have been stolen.
He heard about the program in December, when a locksmith who replaced a buzzer system in his Chicago apartment building offered to install Amazon Key for Business for free. Goldberg, who helps manage the building, later allowed Amazon sellers – with a $ 100 Amazon gift card – to install the device.
“They give it away for free because it benefits Amazon more than it does us,” Goldberg said.
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