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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