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July 23, 2019

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Keeping all sides happy with intelligent lockers

The intelligent parcel lockers in some Shanghai communities are a solution to the costly last mile of delivery, but have also led to complaints from customers unwilling to leave their apartments to pick up a package.

But a new State Post Bureau regulation stipulates that from October delivery staff must get approval from customers before putting parcels in the lockers. Parcels must be delivered to homes if recipients won’t use the lockers. 

Local courier firms and communities began to promote intelligent parcel delivery lockers about a decade ago amid the online shopping boom.

The facility typically comprises 40 to 200 electronic lockers with a control unit that allows each compartment to be opened by the recipient. They are in different sizes to cope with the most common sizes of parcel.

It is more convenient to pick up from the lockers when customers are not at home, said Liang Zhenhua, a local deliveryman with YTO Express.

Although lockers charge delivery staff about 0.5 yuan (7.2 US cents) for each parcel, it has largely increased efficiency. If recipients failed to pick up parcels in time, recipients pay additional fees.

Liang has to spend about five minutes on average to take each parcel to the doorstep, but only a minute to drop several parcels into a locker.

“More importantly, we don’t have to take liability for the theft of parcels left on the doorstep when customers are not at home,” he said.

Liability problems

YTO said it will follow the new regulation, but Liang said he may have to work about two hours longer every day because of it. “What if the phone was unanswered while the customer was not at home?” he said, adding many local community managements refuse to accept packages for customers due to liability problems and storage.

Some residents welcomed the new regulation, saying it could prevent some lazy deliverymen from being lazy.

Daniel Chen, a local employee of a travel agency, said he preferred his online shopping to be sent to his home, especially if it is heavy. It was also a problem for his parents when parcels arrived while he was abroad and they had to carry them upstairs. 

Gong Changqiu, a general manager of a YTO parcel delivery station in Huangpu District, said the problem could be solved technically to make both customers and delivery staff happy. For instance, the station can send group messages to all the customers about whether they are willing to use the lockers before staff were designated to deliver the parcels.

China’s express delivery and logistics businesses have boomed since online shopping took off. During last year’s Singles Day shopping spree on November 11, major online shopping sites saw the total number of packages climb 25 percent from a year earlier to 1.35 billion, according to the State Post Bureau.

In 2018, domestic courier firms handled 507 billion packages, up 26.6 percent from the year before, and combined revenue jumped 21.8 percent to 603.8 billion yuan. Driven by that increase, the number of intelligent lockers is expected hit 350,000 by 2020.




 

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