Amazon Fulfillment

TL;DR

Amazon Fulfillment does not offer a vacation hold for package delivery.

The Full Story

We recently took a two week vacation to see family. Like any responsible adult I made sure to put a vacation hold on my mail delivery with USPS. I also went ahead and did the same with UPS and FedEx knowing that it is the holiday season and people would be shipping presents to us. In fact, I knew we had a few Amazon deliveries coming while we were going to be away.

In the past our Amazon deliveries have been primarily handled by UPS. If the item is bulky, sensitive, or needed Sunday delivery, then we might see the anonymous cars of “Fulfillment by Amazon”. We didn’t have any of these types of packages planned, so I didn’t think twice about them.

A week and a half into our vacation I received a delivery notification from Amazon. This isn’t unusual. I learned last year that while we had vacation holds in place, Amazon packages delivered via UPS were marked as “delivered” when they reached the holding facility. I would have assumed this was the case once again except Amazon added a new feature. For deliveries handled by Amazon Fulfillment, they now take a picture of your package on your porch! How convenient!

I was surprised to see my package sitting in plain sight in front of my door. That’s not supposed to happen with all these holds. But wait, why were there other boxes on the porch? It turns out that for this holiday season Amazon Fulfillment was the primary deliverer of packages to my address. In fact, during that week and a half absence they had managed to drop 13 boxes in front of my door. Some of these were planned deliveries. Others were gifts purchased from my son’s Christmas wish-list.

I called Amazon to figure out what was going on. It took a while to get an actual phone number for Amazon Fulfillment, and I was greeted by a very pleasant service desk representative. She tried her best to be helpful and figure out along with me what could be done.

You see, I don’t want to leave 13 packages on my front porch for two weeks. That sort of thing is pretty stupid. It’s a great way to get packages stolen. It’s also a great way to advertise to thieves that we weren’t home for an extended period of time. The Washington Post recently wrote a comprehensive article on the increasing prevalence of package theft and the accompanying dangers. This is a real problem!

I want a vacation hold to be just that. Hold my packages from delivery. That includes packages I order myself and those that others might be sending me. Every other major logistics company has solved this problem with the elegantly simple solution of a vacation hold, but Amazon hasn’t figured that out. After repeatedly escalating my calls with Amazon Fulfillment I was informed time and time again that they do not offer any mechanism to temporarily place a hold on deliveries to your address.

Amazon’s solution is their highly suspect, big-brother “smart door” that should let Amazon drop packages inside. Even if the offering was a good one and didn’t raise a thousand privacy flags, I still don’t see how me paying Amazon more money is a solution to a problem they caused.

I asked Amazon if I could put a flag on my account to never use Amazon Fulfillment again so I could be free of this hassle. Apparently they can’t do that either. What they finally did for me was to “deprioritize” Amazon Fulfillment. When I am shipping a package via Amazon they determine which carrier to use through some esoteric system. My settings now deprioritize that one option, theoretically. That change will apparently take 3 weeks to go into effect and I have no way of verifying how effective it is.

One of the most frustrating things about all this is that even that setting will have no effect on items that others ship to my house. My prioritization is part of my Amazon account, not tied to my delivery address.

Amazon is built on innovation. They can offer two day delivery, sometimes faster. They take pictures of your delivered items on your porch. They can even deliver by drone in some situations. What they can’t do is hold your damned mail.