Amazon installed a metal lockers clutch outside a gas station convenience store in Fresno, California, customers can pick up packages they did not want it delivered directly to their homes. The robin-egg blue lockers shared a self-service screen and featured the e-commerce giant’s ever-present smile logo.
The problem, according to a Complaints from Fresno City Council Members last November, they were placed along a poorly lit side of the building, out of sight of security cameras. It was easy to predict what happened next: someone tried to break into the lockers.
The attempted robbery should have been a face-to-face moment for Amazon, says the council member, Miguel Arias, because that unmonitored location would surely tempt criminals. The lockers could collectively hold thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, far more attractive than the cheap ice packs typically found in vending machines versus pumps.
“I don’t know how they landed at a gas station,” Arias said of Amazon’s decision to install the lockers. “It’s the place where you have a beer on the way home after hours, not a place where you go to buy your $ 500 iPhone.”
After Arias raised his concerns, the Fresno City Council voted to prevent the developer responsible for the convenience store, a local chain called Johnny Quik, from installing Amazon lockers in a new store that it was looking to build at another location. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Fresno isn’t the only one experiencing frustration with Amazon’s lockers, as the company installs them across the country to thwart thieves looking for its easy-to-recognize packages on neighborhood stairs. Chicago residents were baffled in August when a set of Amazon lockers were installed directly on walkways in two city parks, partially obstructing the roads and adding the corporate brand to the lush municipal services. The photos of the lockers were widely shared on Twitter other Reddit. The companies have also had second thoughts after closing deals to house the lockers.
The Chicago conflict taps into major objections to corporate intrusion on public property. Corporate names have been added to metro stations and high school sports stadiums. Even the National Park Service has pondered naming benches and interior spaces after corporate donors. Transit agencies cover buses and fill train stations with advertisements.
An Amazon smile in a Chicago park might seem to some a small, albeit annoying, element of the tapestry of corporate messages already in the public sphere. Still, activists and civic planners wonder if parks should be added to the list of locations filled with corporate logos. The park space is supposed to serve everyone, not just Amazon customers, said Jennifer Minner, a professor of urban and regional planning at Cornell University.
“Installing lockers that essentially serve people who spend money is taking away a larger public benefit that serves more people,” Minner said.
Most locker locations are uncontroversial, and lockers at bus stations and 7-Elevens rarely surprise. However, a misplaced locker plays into a broader image problem Amazon has had in managing local relationships. The company has been blamed for putting Main Street booksellers and local retailers out of business with predatory low prices. And community activists have raised concerns about the working conditions of Amazon’s outsourced delivery drivers and in their warehouses, which are sometimes set up in disused shopping centers it is blamed for closing the business.
Amazon did not provide information on whether it implements security and crime prevention measures around its outdoor lockers, or whether that is the responsibility of the organizations that house the lockers. But Av Zammit, an Amazon spokesperson, said in a statement that the company values feedback from the community. Amazon is reviewing the location of the lockers in Chicago “to make sure they are all located in appropriate areas that serve both customers and the community,” he said.
Amazon spokeswoman Alyssa Bronikowski provided further comment. “We have been working closely with the Chicago Park District since 2020 to add Amazon Lockers following the district’s requests for this additional community benefit,” he said. “The focus of our association has been to provide park users and community members access to a safe and convenient delivery option.”
Amazon launched its lockers 10 years ago in Seattle, New York State and the Washington, DC area. Since then, the lockers have been part of its Amazon Hub Service, which includes Whole Foods locations where Amazon customers can pick up their packages at the counter. As of 2019, Amazon said it had installed lockers in more than 900 cities and towns In the USA.
Some high-rise apartments also have lockers installed so that tenants do not have to wait at home for a delivery or rely on an apartment manager to deliver their packages. Amazon Locker Plus locations offer self-service kiosks, as well as an Amazon assistant to help. UPS also offers delivery lockers with its access point program, and some third-party companies offer lockers that accept packages from multiple carriers. Walmart installed parcel lockers in its own stores, but recently started phasing them out.
Block the pirates from the porch
Amazon markets locker facilities as a way to combat porch piracy, another problem the company helped create. The lockers also serve as a source of income for public agencies and the companies that house them, although in many cases the rent that Amazon pays is not disclosed. In Jacksonville, Florida, for example, Amazon associated with the transportation authority to install lockers in bus terminals and transportation centers. The agency did not respond to a request for comment.
The company hit a similar arrangement in Johnson County, Kansas, with local 7-Eleven stores. 7-Eleven did not respond to a request for information on how it handles outdoor locker security.
No society has raised complaints about security or vandalism.
Still, Amazon’s locker placement hasn’t always gone well. Staples and RadioShack terminated agreements with the company in 2013, eliminating a service that had invited a competitor to your stores. A set of lockers at Sacramento State University in California was removed two months after its installation in 2014 because the campus bookstore had the exclusive right to serve as a bookseller in college.
Few installations have gone as badly as a recent installation in Chicago’s Brands Park.
In photos posted online, a monolithic segment of lockers appears to consume about a third of the walkway and create a blind corner. The location is near a fence that would make it difficult for a delivery person to unload a dolly of packages while leaving room for park visitors to pass, especially a visitor who is in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller.
Community members quickly objected. A petition calling for the removal of the lockers appeared on Change.org and accumulated more than 13,000 signatures. (The goal was 15,000). Councilor Rossana Rodríguez-Sánchez, who represents the district that includes the park, complained that the corporate logo marred public property even though the city was receiving rent for the locations.
Rodríguez-Sánchez said on Twitter that the Amazon brand giants are “a slap in the face,” in part because they would give the parks department roughly $ 137,600 in the first year, tops.
The lockers have been removed from Brands Park, as well as from another Chicago park. The program, which had already led to the installation of lockers in 49 parks and was targeting a total of 102 locker locations, is on hold while the parks department reviews Amazon’s plans.
There’s also the question of how safe Amazon customers can feel going to a park after work, potentially in the dark, to pick up a valuable package. In Fresno, Councilmember Arias said Johnny Quik’s lockers have become a service to his constituents because the convenience store increased security by installing additional lighting and security cameras. Still, he wondered how no one thought of that concern to begin with.
“Amazon can be credited with a great deal of innovation in its logistics delivery system,” Arias said. But the initial installation showed “a lack of understanding from the local community.”