Millions of Americans discovered the myriad of benefits of online shopping for the first time during the pandemic as online sales jumped 32.4% from 2019 to 2020 and continued to climb in 2021, says the U.S. Census Bureau.
After all, you can shop 24/7 in the comfort of your pajamas; you don’t have to fight traffic to drive to the mall and circle the parking lot; it’s easy to compare prices between multiple online retailers; and products are shipped right to your door.
But now that many are returning to an office for work, who will be at home to receive the packages?
As we head into the busy shopping season, the last thing you want is your gifts to be lifted from your doorstep by “porch pirates.”
There are a few things you can do to deter thieves. Here are four ideas:
There’s no shortage of outdoor cameras to let you see who’s at your front door – whether you’re home or not – and talk with visitors via the integrated microphone and speaker. You’re immediately notified on your smartphone when it detects motion.
You’re probably aware of Amazon’s Ring family ($169.99 for Video Doorbell Pro) and perhaps Google’s Nest Doorbell (from $179.99), because they’re both popular picks. But you might not know you need to pay to access previously recorded videos.
That is, you can chat live with someone free, but to review what you missed (up to 60 days) and share videos and photos, you’ll need a Ring Protect Plan (from $3/month or $30/year) for Amazon devices and a Nest Aware subscription for the Google Nest doorbell (from $8/month or $80/year) to go back up to 30 days (plus other features, like clip sharing).
But if you’d like to forego buying yet another subscription to access previously recorded video, look at the Lorex 2K Wi-Fi Video Doorbell ($179.99), which does not charge a monthly fee. Recordings are stored on the included 32GB MicroSD card, and the Lorex Home smartphone app (available for iOS and Android devices) lets you chat in real-time with visitors and review older videos. The wired doorbell offers color night vision, a nightlight and the option to play prerecorded audio messages when someone rings the bell.
Live in a rain-prone region or a neighborhood targeted by porch pirates? Lorex also offers the weatherproof Lorex 1080p Wi-Fi Floodlight Camera ($179.99), which houses two ultrabright LED lights (to produce a total of 4,000 lumens), Full HD recording, a remotely triggered siren, two-way audio and infrared night vision.
► Getting revenge with glitterbombs: YouTuber Mark Rober takes on porch pirates
Allow for in-garage access
Free, but exclusively for Amazon Prime ($119/year) members, Amazon Key In-Garage Delivery allows a (vetted) courier to open your garage door to place packages inside, then close it. It works with Chamberlain’s myQ connected smart garages. You can type in your ZIP code to see if the In-Garage Delivery services are available in your area. (The in-home option, for couriers to place packages inside your door, is currently paused because of COVID-19.)
When shopping for items (including groceries), select “Key Delivery” at checkout. You’ll receive a notification upon arrival, along with an option to watch the delivery live.
After the driver requests to unlock the garage door via their Amazon handheld scanner, Amazon verifies the driver’s location and the package belongs to your address. When confirmed, the garage door is unlocked with a one-time code, and the driver places the package just inside, then requests to lock the door. There is no need to share your garage code.
Another option is to place a locking mailbox on your porch for couriers and mail carriers to protect deliveries from thieves and inclement weather.
Some don’t have smarts to them, such as the Danby Parcel Guard Basic Mailbox ($229.00), a simple lockbox that can fit parcels up to 15 by 10 by 8 inches and features an anti-theft drop slot and keylock for you to open when you get home.
If desired, the mailbox could be bolted to the ground (fixings included), or weight can be added to the base of the unit (using sand or gravel).
If you want a high-tech mailbox, for an extra $70, there’s also the Danby Parcel Guard Smart Mailbox ($299.00), a Wi-Fi-connected unit with motion sensor, camera, two-way voice communication, smarthome device integration (Google and Alexa), and alarm. Receive real-time notifications on your smartphone app when a courier is there. To open the electronic lock to access parcels inside (up to 15 by 10 by 8 inches), use the keypad or the app. (Note: It needs a 120-volt power supply.)
Get it delivered to another location
Another idea is to have the packages delivered to a nearby post office. The U.S. Postal Service offers a range of post office box sizes to hold your mail and packages safely at a nearby facility.
The first step is to search for post office locations near you using the search bar under Reserve a New P.O. Box. Then, choose a location and make selections on your desired P.O. Box size and payment period. Finally, enter your contact and billing information to reserve the box.
Finally, if it’s doable – that is, if your office is open and your boss doesn’t mind – you might also direct online deliveries to your place of business if it’s during working hours. This may also give you the peace of mind knowing your packages are safe from porch pirates.