Today I had to return a package to Amazon

Today I had to return a package to Amazon. When I angrily filled out the “return an item” form for a product that didn’t work, I saw a new option on the list of return methods: an Amazon locker located at the 7-Eleven less than half a mile from my house. If you’re not from Long Island you may not be able to appreciate how much of a fixture of daily life 7-Eleven is, but there are at least 15 within a 2-mile radius of my house — not an exaggeration — and two within 10 minutes’ walking distance.

I had noticed the locker a couple weeks ago but didn’t think much of it. Now that I had to return something, it seemed like a good opportunity to try it out.

After selecting the locker as my return method, Amazon gave me a label to print out, much like when selecting UPS. I was actually hoping using a locker meant I wouldn’t need to put the item in a box and tape it up — just put the item in the locker and let someone else throw it in a bucket — but no such luck. This means if you want to return something you do still need to have a cache of empty boxes (and packing peanuts/air bags) laying around — or else go buy them as needed.

With my item boxed and taped up, I headed out to 7-Eleven to experience the future of item returns.

Returning an item to 7–11.

The locker was at the back of the store, behind the coffee.

Each locker has a distinct name; Amazon wisely chose to give them “real” names rather than obscure identifiers.

I scanned the barcode on the shipping label.

A locker door opened up, but it was way too small for my package. I clicked “the package doesn’t fit” on the screen.

I was prompted to shut the door, and once I did, a bigger locker opened.

I closed the door and that was the end of it.

I’ve recently had to return a few items, both to Newegg and to Amazon, and using the Amazon Locker has been the easiest method. The items I returned to Newegg had to be shipped via Fedex, which is about 8 miles from my house. There are two UPS stores within 3 miles of my house, but parking is usually an issue. In terms of overall convenience, putting a locker in 7-Eleven was unparalleled. I expect to see more of these types of locations as Amazon turns the screws on last-mile delivery — they spent over $5B on delivery in 2015.

While lockers aren’t great news for the shipping carriers, they seem like a big win for Amazon (less reliance on UPS/Fedex/USPS), customers (convenience), and 7-Eleven (more people in the door means more coffee sold). If Amazon starts offering credits for people who use lockers for pickup/returns — earn a $4 credit if you pick up your product rather than have UPS ship it to your door — they could seriously change people’s behavior.

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Somehow Apple managed to screw up watching videos on a phone even more

It’s been over a year since I watched the entire Harry Potter series on a tablet during my morning commute. I converted all 8 films to MP4 using Handbrake, put them on a microsd card, installed VLC, and watched them. All 8 on a 7″ Samsung tablet. This, because putting a video on an Apple device is torturous. Not that the tablet was so great, but much better than Apple.

I decided this week to load up some movies on my iPhone. New iOS, new phone (6S), it must be better. Right?

In a word, no. Movies still have to be encoded to Apple’s spec — MP4 with h264 video stream and aac audio stream — which meant recompiling ffmpeg from source to add libfdk_aac. Once the video is in the correct format, it still has to be dragged onto iTunes, iPhone connected via lightning cable, and synced via sync button. Wifi syncing might also work. But this is all old news, iTunes has worked this way for years.

What’s new is that the Videos app is now renamed TV and is a piece of crap. Specifically it requires a network connection just to open the app. If one isn’t available it spins for about 2 minutes before putting a naggy banner across the top:

iOS TV app loading screen while I was in the LIRR tunnel

Once you’re finally in the app, it doesn’t remember what you were watching or where you were. It just shows the splash screen.

Oh look at that one DS9 episode I have to see every time

Also, there seems to be no way to delete items from within TV. So I can’t delete that one episode of Deep Space Nine that’s been on my phone for months.

This all sucks. I don’t know how Apple can manage to screw up such simple concepts as “load, list and play music or video” but they really have turned it into an art.